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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Dieneba Seck

By Nils Jacobson
Published October 31, 2005

The Truth
Stern's Africa

Diénéba Seck's wonderful piercing, undulating voice made her a fixture on Malian radio in 1991 with "Kankeletigui," creating a star almost overnight. Now on her fourth solo recording, she's still popular at home, but The Truth may be her real international breakout. Her sharp vocals are embedded in lush instrumental textures that blend the traditional ngoni (lute), soukou (violin) and djembe (drum), as well as guitar, bass and flute. Sekou Kouyaté, an early collaborator, reappears here to coordinate all these elements and create upbeat, peppy, intertwined meshes of sound that could almost function on their own. But Seck's voice is the real reason to check out The Truth. Oumou Sangare may have brought international exposure to the emotionally rich Wassoulou vocal style, but Diénéba Seck is pretty close to her level in terms of deceptively simple delivery and emphasis on messages of social awareness. (One warning: the fourth track goes electric, diluting and despoiling the organic feel of the rest of the album, but just fast forward and you can make it instant history.)