Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jali Musa Jawara

  • Soubindoor [Mango, 1989] B+
  • Yasimika [Hannibal, 1990] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Soubindoor [Mango, 1989]
Mandinka folk music reconceived by Mory Kante's multi-instrumentalist brother, whose emotional tenor soars over interwoven balafon (a big, deeply resonant xylophone) and kora (an intricately harplike guitar), with his guitar talking underneath and harmonies from women surnamed Diabate and Keita adding commentary and color. In Guinea, it's reconceived Mandinka folk music; in the U.S. it's world beat as world music, exotically pleasurable education for the ears. B+

Yasimika [Hannibal, 1990]
A 1983 French release picked up by U.K. Oval in 1986, this is the renowned album that made Mango's 1989 Soubindoor inevitable. Though only vocalist-koramaster Jawara plays on both, the bands--each featuring balafon, two guitars, and two women singers--achieve an identical sound. Yet though I heard this one second, it grabbed me where Mango's entry rewarded my dutiful attention. Can't pin down why in the musicianship or composition, and note dutifully that Soubindoor is two songs and 15 minutes longer. Maybe I just needed a break after Soubindoor softened me up--comparison has certainly been painless. Or maybe not--I swear the emotion is higher here, the weave a quantum more intense. And of such quanta are world-music classics made. A-