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World Music CD Reviews Africa


By Jame Rodgers
Published September 27, 2005


Putumayo continues its series of world music compilations that shine a light on a country, style, music or person. These work best when they showcase a country that doesn’t already have hundreds of releases flooding the market, because it’s hard to encapsulate a country’s music in 11 songs. Mali, both the music and the country, deserve the focus. The 10 artists represented here (Habib Koite, a Putumayo artist, has two songs) show the depth, breadth and stunning innovation of their music. From legendary artists like Koite and Boubacar Traore to upstarts blending tradition with electronica, like Issa Bagayago and Mamou Sidibe, to lesser knowns, like Moussa Diallo and the band Tinariwen, Malian music isn’t just alive, it’s thriving, pulsing and enjoying itself. The music is intricate but extremely accessible and danceable, and the vocals are warm and inviting. As with past Putumayo collections, a bit of help with translations would invite the listener even deeper into the culture, but it works as a fine starting point for beginners and experimentalists. You may not know the words, but you’ll be humming the tunes for days.