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World Music CD Reviews Africa

SEKOU DIABATE

By Tom Pryor
Published January 17, 2006

Guitar Fo
Discorma/Harmonia Mundi

Anyone who’s lucky enough to have seen legendary Guinean combo Bembeya Jazz live can tell you that one of that band’s many secret weapons is the gorgeously lilting guitar work of Sekou Diabate. Diabate, nicknamed “Diamond Fingers,” is one of the self-taught geniuses of the African guitar; growing up he based his playing on the sounds of the kora, the 24-stringed Manding harp. In his younger years that grounding in Manding tradition helped pioneer a new kind of dance music; today it continues to give his playing a nimbleness and grace that are seldom surpassed. And though he’s recorded with Bembeya since the band’s heyday in the ‘70s, he’s seldom ventured out to record on his own, making this new album a rare treat. The tracks here don’t disappoint, either. From the gentle opener “Biduman” to the Latin-tinged “Dianamo” to his signature scorcher “Guitar Fo,” Diabate keeps things sweet, simple and absolutely gorgeous with a band that’s just bass, drums and guitars, guitars, guitars.