THIONE SECK: ORIENTATION--EGYPT-INDIA-SENEGAL (Stern's Africa)
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What the heck kind of West African album starts with the trilling strings of an oud? That's the kind of question you might ask if you haven't already heard Youssou N'Dour's Africa-meets-Middle East project Egypt. The rich Muslim influence in Senegal accounts for that, and for the Egypt part of this new CD from singer-songwriter Thione Seck. But India? Well, it turns out that the Dakar theaters Seck frequented showed Bollywood films, and he became a fan of playback singer sisters Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar. This CD is an attempt to wrap all of these into a single package. Seck's singing is powerful throughout, whether with the swelling strings on "Siiw (Celebrity)" or with the drums and backup chorus on "Blain Djigueul (The Death of a Close Friend)," making this gorgeous album a strong candidate for our favorite albums of 2005.