Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

Fula Flute

Mansa America

2009-03-09

Sure, opening cut "Obama" (#1) feels like a bit of a novelty song after the 2008 election. But concentrate on the playing - especially Bailo Bah's and Sylvain Leroux's crazy good flute chops - instead of the foreign language words, and the track will win you over like everything else on the disc. This traditional-based Fulani music from the Fouta Djalon highlands of Guinea features complex balafon, kora, and flute solos that feel like the wellspring of American jazz, especially when paired with genuine jazz change-ups. But there's also a stateliness to the instrumentation that somehow seems classical. The two strains combine brilliantly on "Fouta Canada" (#5), thanks to a seamlessly integrated horn section. It's the Fulani flute that steals the show on "Lele"(#4) and "Boloba" (#6) via performances so physical, it's as if the flutist is trying to fit his entire body into the mouthpiece. The vocal interjections that punctuate these solos increase the crazy intensity of an already thrilling recording. - Bob Tarte

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