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World Music CD Reviews Africa


By Tom Orr
Published April 26, 2006

Real World

Despite being a near-masterpiece of modern West African-influenced music, Tama’s 1999 release Nostalgie was a bit overlooked. Undaunted, the group’s core members—Malian kora player Toumani Diakite, English guitarist Sam Mills, and percussionist Djauno Dabo from Guinea-Bissau—return with a work that’s even better. Espace is lively and atmospheric, with the addition of Malian Mamani Keita’s lead vocals a particular asset (she sang backup on the first disc, and her cool, high warble is a good fit here). There’s also an enhanced palette of instrumental sounds, including the flute work of Malik Mezzadri and some cheery Lusophone-style accordion. Dabo’s percussion is nicely varied and spreads out like a mural across the mix, Mill’s guitar is effectively both graceful and gritty, and Diakite’s playing (particularly on the n’goni lute) benefits from a restrained quality that sweetens its upfront moments all the more. There are plenty of other reasons to buy this disc, including additional guitar by Manecas Costa and Susheela Raman’s guest vocal, but summing up all the virtues of Espace would require far more space.