28 May 2010

Donso Remixes Africa

Donso - Donso (Comet Records, France)

Successfully blending the sounds of tradition with new musical elements is a journey fraught with peril. An artist risks criticism both from outraged traditionalists and from critics who see the music as simply cashing in on some current trend. African music isn't immune: For every great rediscovered track on a compilation such as Strut's recent Afro-Rock Vol. 1, there are dozens of songs with cheesy keyboards, bad beats, and cranky guitar solos.

Blends of traditional African folk music with electronica are becoming increasingly popular. Just check out Issa Bagayogo or Damon Albarn's foray into West African song on Mali Music. Now there's a compelling new addition to this mini-genre by a French & Malian group called Donso.

Hitting stores June 7, Donso's self-titled album hits the sweet spot in subtly adding beats and loops to what clearly remains African music. The song "Hunters," for example, layers on drums and keyboards but they never obscure the ngoni riffs at the heart of the song. "Mogoya" meanwhile finds a compromise between Afrobeat and traditional West African vocals. Alas, I have no idea what the lyrics (or even the song titles) are about, but that won't stop me from enjoying the great grooves these guys lay down.

Here are a couple of remixes from the album:

You can check out more remix sounds from Donso's remix contest.

Donso's members are electronic instrumentalist Pierre-Antoine Grison (aka KrazyBaldhead), guitarist and ngoni player Guimba Kouyate, percussionist and ngoni player Thomas Guillaume, and vocalist Gédéon Diarra. And it certainly doesn't hurt that kora virtuoso Ballake Sissoko and keyboardist Cheick Thidiane Seck make contribution to the album.

Both Comet Records and Donso seem to have a minimalist presence on the Web and I'm not even sure where you can get the CD (help, anyone?), though you can find out more at the links below.

More Donso
Comet Records myspace
Comet Records blog

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