A Malian singer worked over by a French producer—this album should be a glossy mass of sheen and slush, but no, nay, absolutely not, the Malian singer stays steady and firm at the centre while the Frenchman roams baroque around her, fascinated by her ringing treelike isolation—“Sometimes I feel I’m listening to a little girl singing,” he told her once as they were being interviewed, “but at other times it’s like this really wise old woman”—he gives her flute, he hands her reggae, violins, kora, a clarinet, a subdued series of sighs, and then something that sounds like—an erhu? And a noise like a banjo in a haunted house for “Doussou”. Here, he says: endless gifts. Have a guitar. She continues undaunted, she has seen rock guitars before, she used to be one of Salif Keita’s backup singers. Mali is always there, not only in her voice, but also in the kora, and other instruments, in the roll and pace of the songs, and in a guest vocal from Adama Coulibaly, who comes in on “Konia”. The Frenchman’s name is Nicolas Repac.
// Notes from the Road
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