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World Music CD Reviews Africa

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Thione Seck
Orientation
Stern’s Africa


By Bruce Miller

Published October 12, 2005

This disc, from Senegalese griot and former vocalist for The Star Band and the Baobab Orchestre, finds Seck looking past his mbalax-laced roots to North Africa, the Middle East and India. But then this shouldn’t be a surprise coming from a man who, as a boy, was enthralled by his father’s Oum Kaltoum discs or recordings of classic Indian Bollywood playback singers. In fact, Orientation’s cross-continental musical gumbo had already been in the works for at least six years, and available in Senegal on cassette, before this international release. Here, Seck’s voice, one of sonorous sincerity, embodies the themes of faith and social ethics found in the Wolof praise songs he’s sung for years. Behind him is a smorgasbord of West African, Indian and Arabic instrumentation. Because of this, Orientation contains an orchestral sweep far deeper than any of Seck’s previous releases, which only works to heighten the seriousness of his lyrical statements, whether they be concerning the importance of selflessness or acclaim for Senegalese Muslim mystic Cheik Amadou Bamba. This, then, is Thione Seck’s most ambitious and fully realized album.

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