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World Music CD Reviews Africa

MOKHTAR SAMBA

By Nils Jacobson
Published September 22, 2005

Dounia
O+ Music

Like much of the music that comes out of Paris these days, Mokhtar Samba’s debut  is as much European or American as it is African. Samba comes from a Senegalese-Moroccan background and has worked with Youssou N’Dour, Carlinhos Brown, Jean-Luc Ponty and Salif Keita, among others. If you had to drop Dounia in a bin, it might be jazz, but this music is so thoroughly hybridized as to render it completely unrecognizable, except by its influences. Vocalists introduce languages and traditional styles from not just Morocco, Senegal and Mali, but also American gospel. Instruments like the West African kora and balafon mingle with guitar, saxophone and keyboards.  The title track struts confidently forward atop a smooth, thickly textured Mandingo-funk backdrop, giving way to Mama Keita’s soaring voice, only to fade into a drum ’n’ bass dream zone and return to a swinging piano solo. Overall, the production is crisp and detailed, the percussion is rich and colorful, and an adventurous spirit of celebration permeates the entire experience. But beware: the track listing is a total mess.