Ever since his 2006 debut Electric Griot Land, kora maestro Ba Cissoko has been exploring the fruitful intersection of traditional African music, Afro-pop, and Afro-funk, with bits of hip-hop and rock thrown in. His latest release Nimissa continues this, though it comes down heavily on the Afro-pop and Afro-trad side of the equation.
Cissoko has a warm, flexible voice that plays well against the tinkling strings, wah-wah guitars and backing vocals in these tracks. Opening track “Ako” quickly establishes an easygoing, midtempo rhythm that will be reflected in any number of subsequent tunes, such as the reggae-ish “Politiki”, and “Kéléfaba”. A quicker pace is evident on such songs as “Nimissa” (which also features horns and insect-buzz guitar) and “N’telenbidgé” (with its funky keyboards).
The more traditional side of the spectrum is apparent on “Luomo” and the kora-centric “N’goni Ba”, but the standout tack is, perhaps, the last one. “Kora Rocks” lives up to its name, and it’s a testament to Cissoko’s skills that this track sounds unlike anything else on the record, yet still fits perfectly. In fact, a bit more electricity the next time around wouldn’t be a bad idea—one gets the idea, listening to this album, that Cissoko is capable of incorporating anything he wants into his singular sonic stew, and carrying it off successfully.