13 Songs, 59 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The kora, a 21-string lute, might be the most emblematic West African instrument outside of the drum family. But the ngoni, another type of lute and an ancestor of the American banjo, also plays an important role in the region’s music. The Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate leads Ngoni Ba, a group that features four ngoni players, percussion, a chorus, and the lead vocals of Amy Sacko, Kouyate’s wife. Bassekou comes from a long line of West African musicians, but he’s also played with artists like Bonnie Raitt and Bono. The music on I Speak Fula, the group’s second release, has non-traditional elements: electric guitar appears on a couple of cuts and Sacko’s singing has a pop dimension. A number of guest musicians make appearances, including Toumani Diabate, who brings his graceful kora stylings to “Jamana Be Diya” and “Tineni,” and Vieux Farka Toure, who lends his electric guitar to “Bambugu Blues” and “Saro.” I Speak Fula is good from start to finish, but “Senufo Hunter,” which features Dramane Ze Konate playing a hunter’s harp known as the m’polon as he sings, is the most intense track here.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The kora, a 21-string lute, might be the most emblematic West African instrument outside of the drum family. But the ngoni, another type of lute and an ancestor of the American banjo, also plays an important role in the region’s music. The Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate leads Ngoni Ba, a group that features four ngoni players, percussion, a chorus, and the lead vocals of Amy Sacko, Kouyate’s wife. Bassekou comes from a long line of West African musicians, but he’s also played with artists like Bonnie Raitt and Bono. The music on I Speak Fula, the group’s second release, has non-traditional elements: electric guitar appears on a couple of cuts and Sacko’s singing has a pop dimension. A number of guest musicians make appearances, including Toumani Diabate, who brings his graceful kora stylings to “Jamana Be Diya” and “Tineni,” and Vieux Farka Toure, who lends his electric guitar to “Bambugu Blues” and “Saro.” I Speak Fula is good from start to finish, but “Senufo Hunter,” which features Dramane Ze Konate playing a hunter’s harp known as the m’polon as he sings, is the most intense track here.

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