23 September 2005

Introducing Daby Balde (CD review)

DABY BALDE: INTRODUCING DABY BALDE
(Introducing/World Music Network)

Here in the West, people sometimes have difficulty distinguishing different countries in Africa, much less different regions. But a little geography helps explain the music of singer Daby Balde, who hails from the region of Casamance in Senegal's south. Casamance, cut off from the north of Senegal, is a diverse area (sandwiched between Gambia and Guinea-Bissau) with music distinct from the Dakar sound. A former taxi driver, Balde has a pure crisp voice with a hint of gruffness, and the musical arrangements are airtight. You'll understand the lyrics only if you speak Fula (a few songs are in Wolof, Mandinka, or French), but the liner notes suggest themes of culture, hard work, love, betrayal, home. "Waino Blues" provides a reverse bridge from Africa back to American blues; "Halaname" pays melodic tribute to "the best person in the world"; and the mournful "Hakurujamane" insists over acoustic guitars that "we are at the end of the world / We have to try to do good things / To do bad things will bring the end of the world sooner." World Music Network's "Introducing" imprint has presented another winner to the world in Daby Balde.

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