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World Music CD Reviews Africa

KASUMAI

By Nils Jacobson
Published September 23, 2005

Senegal Urban Rhythms
ARC Music

Don’t misunderstand the title of this recording and come away with expectations of West African rap, because this Senegalese group’s interpretation of urban rhythms predates Daara J’s by about 800 years. Kasumai takes its name from the Diola word for “hello,” meaning “peace with you,” and a spirit of gentle welcome pervades the whole record.  Drummer Sagar N’Gom, who founded Kasumai in Casamance 12 years ago, recruited the quintet heard on this 2004 London recording. Generous helpings of djembe and sabar drums, as well as the modern trap kit, serve as a foundation for these songs of celebration, ritual, tribute and social consciousness (elaborated upon in the liner notes). Griot kora player Famara “Djere” Cissokho makes several appearances on his 21-string harp, most notably the virtuosic solo “Alla Lamina”; guitar and keyboards fill in additional melody and texture. The two Afro-Cuban pieces are a bit square and predictable, but the rest of these 14 selections sing brightly about traditions ancient and modern, making fresh connections without forcing them. A word to the wise: home in on the drums.