29 June 2009

Monday's mp3: The Electric Motherland


Ba Cissoko - Seno (Sterns Africa)

Guinea's Cissoko family has provided generation upon generation of musicians across west Africa. But that legacy alone doesn't explain the sound of Ba Cissoko (which is, by the way, both a person and a band). In their decade together, the core quartet of Kimintan "Ba" Cissoko (kora), Sekou Kouyate (electric kora), Ibrahima Kourou Kouyate (bass), and Ibrahim "Kounkoure" Bah (percussion) have incorporated influences both old and new and in doing so they've created something of a new genre. Call it kora-rock, or Afro-rock, or electric griot.
Ba Cissoko - Seno - on SoundRoots.org

The band's third release after Sabolan (2003) and Electric Griot Land (2006), Seno will bridge any gap there may be in listeners' minds between traditional and modern music. Truth be told, my first listen was actually off-putting, as I struggled to accept Kouyate's effects-laden kora sound as authentically African. But abandon that preconception -- as one also must do to love the clangy electric guitars of Tinariwen -- and you'll discover extraordinary music on Seno -- music that shows how Ba Cissoko has been listening to the world while preserving their own rich heritage.

"Nina" is perfect example of Ba Cissoko's Afro-rock -- with Cissoko's vocals backed by djembe, acoustic kora, and a kora so processed it sounds like seriously funky guitar. The story of the band's formation that's told in the liner notes is great background, but you can hear it all in this single song: one future sound of Africa.

[mp3] Ba Cissoko - Nina
from the album Seno

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