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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Issa Bagayogo

By Marie Elsie St. Leger
Published August 1, 2005

Six Degrees

On Tassoumakan (“Voice of Fire”), Malian kamele n’goni player Issa Bagayogo again teams with French producer Yves Wernert (who helmed his previous releases Iya and Timbuktu), and the production is again stellar. On the opening “Ciew Mawele,” Bagayogo’s voice is the prominent element, and the traditional arrangement follows willingly where the singer leads. Yet upon closer inspection, the technology shows itself: in the echoes of the n’goni, the subtle augmentation of the electric guitars and the sampled percussion. But it’s back to familiar form with such songs as “Diama Don,” on which rhythmic keyboards anchor a rollicking midtempo funk, led by guitarists Karamokou Diabate and Mama Sissoko, and “Djigui,” a tune reminiscent of ‘70s blaxploitation soul. Lacking on this set is the glossy sheen of overproduction: Bagayogo and Wernert’s organic approach insures that Tassoumakan reverberates with a strong sense of place, of urban back alleys and open savannahs, of well-oiled machinery and well-kept hearth.