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World Music CD Reviews Africa


By Marie Elsie St. Leger
Published September 23, 2005

Kongo Magni
World Village/Harmonia Mundi

On Boubacar “Kar Kar” Traoré’s latest album cover, the guitarist rests his ear on his guitar, as if reassuring the spirits trapped within of their yearned-for release. And release them he does. Traoré’s fingers elicit dancing lines from his blues guitar, but his voice serves as the spirits’ true conduit. Warm, emotive and deceptive quiet, Traoré envelops the listener with a caressing intimacy even as he breaks the heart with his truths. Pain and sorrow inform Kongo Magni—hear the raw emotion on a tribute to his late wife (“Dounia Tabolo”) and the bristling anger and bitter disappointment on “Kongo Magni,” a lamentation of man-made heartache. Yet joy springs force just as readily, first as an undercurrent, then as a flood, on “Sénékéla,” a bow to the farmers feeding the nearly self-sufficient West African country. A farmer himself, Kar Kar tells his story with an understanding borne of living with and for the cyclical rhythms of the earth. Joining his guitar are harmonica, balafon, accordion and calabash gourd, but this veteran’s music requires no embellishment, and he keeps to his simple and direct message. Kongo Magni is a tour de force of nearly inexpressible beauty, sorrow and quiet, stubborn joie de vivre.