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Dobet Gnahoré - Na Afriki

Released on Cumbancha, 06/26/07

Dobet Gnahoré, a singer and songwriter from the Ivory Coast, grew up in an artistic colony and was exposed to music from all over the world, and Africa in particular, since she was a child. Since the mid 90s she's been collaborating with her French husband Colin Laroche de Féline, a guitarist well-versed in African styles, to produce her own kind of pan-African fusion.

Melodies and rhythms form Ivory Coast, Mali, Congo and South Africa blend seamlessly in her music. Gnahoré's supple, effortless alto makes her music take flight with its soulful expressiveness while her band, under the direction of her husband, keeps the music anchored to the earth with a deep, sumptuous groove.

Gnahoré is a socially conscious artist with songs that educate, protest and celebrate the struggle for human rights both in Africa and internationally. "Dala (Money)" melds the rhythms of South African jive with Congolese guitar lines to decry the importance people place on money; she laments the plight of the poor who often live "life without joy". On this track, Gnahoré sounds remarkably like the young Miriam Makeba, another African woman whose music has been a force for positive change in the world.

"Ma Poo (My Breath)" is a lilting Congolese rumba driven by de Féline sinuous guitar, dreamy vocal harmonies and Gnahoré's passionate lead vocals. "Pygmées" is a tribute to the people of the rainforest who compose wordless songs that mimic the sound of the jungle that surrounds them. Gnahoré approximation of their style is remarkable. "Pillage" brings to mind the mibra (thumb piano) music of Zimbabwe. Gnahoré's sings forcefully with de Féline's staccato guitar lines mimicking the sound of thumb piano and the ensemble's subtle percussion adding drama to her plea for peace. The song is followed by an a cappella prayer for the dead, delivered by Gnahoré with a chilling power.

The music, with the exception of Jean-Oliver Rajeloarijaona's electric bass, is all acoustic, driven by African percussion, a Western drum kit and the multi-layered guitar work of Colin Laroche de Féline, but it's Gnahoré's stunning vocal ability that makes the music take flight.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars