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World Music CD Reviews Africa

DOBET GNAHORE

By Tom Orr
Published January 25, 2006

Ano Neko
Contre Jour

One of the less familiar names on Putumayo’s recent Women Of Africa collection was a singer from Cote d’Ivoire named Dobet Gnahore, who’s got a lot going for her on this sharp selection of unplugged music. Gnahore’s singing is marked by equal parts urgency and restraint, enabling her to emote in tones both tender and tough. Plus, she radiates that pan-African sense of wise warmth that makes her sound comparable to that of troubadours like Oliver Mtukudzi, Suzzana Owiyo or Souad Massi. Acoustic guitars and percussion are the backbone of most of the songs, with shifting tempos and degrees of call-and-response vocal complexity spelling out tales of love, suffering, adherence to tradition and the beauty of simple things. Local color is added via occasional balafon, hoddu lute (played by Gnahore herself) and calabash rhythms. Somber offerings like “SIDA” (“AIDS”) are balanced with doses of bouncier Afro-pop (“Mindile,” “Bete Djili”) and the whole disc’s array of charms make repeated listening a must.