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World Music CD Reviews North American

Kakande

By Tom Orr
Published October 16, 2008

Dununya
Jumbie Records

African music produced in the U.S. and collaborated upon by American musicians is nothing new, so such releases had better measure up in terms of sounding authentic and just plain vibrant. This one delivers, thanks in no small part to Kakande leader Famoro Dioubate’s griot mastery of the West African balafon (gourd resonator xylophone). His swirling, traditional-meets-jazz playing is impressive throughout, sturdily supported by drums, bass, guitar, sax, flute, cello, percussion and vocals from a skilled cast of African and American players. Recorded and mixed in Brooklyn, the disc sports scorchers like the home-invoking opener “Kakande” and such moodier pieces as the textured, chamber music-leaning title track. A thrilling mix of adventurousness and expertise, Dununya brims with the splendor of Africa’s Mande Empire as well as bringing forth the very sort of African fruits a musical session from this side of the pond can bear.