Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mory Kante

  • Akwaba Beach [Polydor, 1988] A-
  • Touma [Mango, 1990] Neither
  • Sabou [Riverboat, 2004] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Akwaba Beach [Polydor, 1988]
Maybe those who find Afropop too ethnic will appreciate the confident compromises of this Guinean griot turned Malian pop star turned Parisian bandleader. Unlike his rival Salif Keita, he considers dance music his mission--even the title song, a romantic showcase for his flawless tenor, maintains a groove. Not out of hopes for world peace did his hyped-up arrangement of the traditional "Yé Ké Yé Ké" become a giant single in Europe last year--his mix of brass, synths, polyrhythm, and kora is a typically hokey Eurodisco alignment. And it sure beats house by me. A-

Touma [Mango, 1990] Neither

Sabou [Riverboat, 2004]
"Acoustic" album by the griot and Rail Band alum, whose early-'90s Mango crossover attempt never followed up on the market-changing 1987 Afrodisco hit "Yé Ké Yé Ké." Note that in West Africa acoustic doesn't mean quiet or contemplative. It means disco isn't working anymore, and it also means neotraditionalist. Strictly speaking, horns are acoustic, but who needs 'em, and when doun doun drums don't generate the bass you need, why not cheat now and then with an "electro-acoustic"? Point is, on most of these tunes the groove is fierce and subtle, and on the others subtle is enough. Strong women add drive and state melody. Kante's kora and Adama Condé's balafon embellish in rhythm. A-