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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Victor Deme

By James Rodgers
Published July 18, 2008

Victor Deme
Chapa Blues

It would be unfair to saddle Mandingo singer Victor Démé with the too-big shoes of expectation by comparing him to Bob Marley or the Gipsy Kings, but like those artists, he is a musical ambassador for the indigenous music of his country, providing that perfect gateway, or entry point, for a wider audience. That’s pretty impressive for a debut recording, even one 30 years in the making. Growing up on the Ivory Coast, Démé has performed for the last three decades in clubs there and in neighboring Burkina Faso, leading bands and winning contests, but it wasn’t until 2007 that he had the opportunity to put his songs to tape. In a makeshift studio, on a 16-track console, he recorded 15 songs that blend Mandingo balladry, Latin rhythms, singer-songwriter guitar folk, and ’70s pop into something new yet familiar—it’s reminiscent of music you know, yet unlike much of what you’ve ever heard. This is the sound of an artist, and a style of music, finally getting their due.