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World Music CD Reviews Jazz

Seckou Keita SKQ

By Michael Stone
Published October 2, 2008

The Silimbo Passage
World ArtVentures WA2008

Prodigy of a family of hereditary musicians, U.K.-based Senegalese kora player-singer-composer-teacher Seckou Keita first performed overseas at age 18 at a festival in Norway. Beyond work with Baka Beyond, Dr. L. Subramaniam, and Jalikunda, Keita heads his own international quartet, comprised of Samy Bishai (violin, Egypt), Davide Mantovani (double bass and electric bass, Italy), Surahata Susso (percussion, Gambia), plus female singer Binta Suso (Gambia). As manifest in his choice of collaborators, Keita brings a cosmopolitan perspective to his instrument while remaining rooted in the expressive sensibilities of his native Casamance region. “Silimbo” signifies “when darkness departs,” or the moment when the sun rises. The metaphor aptly reflects the ensemble’s subtle, intricate interplay of strings, percussion, Suso’s soaring voice, and some fine vocal harmonies, as on “Mande-Arab” and “Miniyamba.” Andalusian, East Indian, Middle Eastern, and European medieval and classical strains intertwine in a jazz-oriented improvisatory music thoroughly contemporary in character.