World roots fusion albums can sometimes be something of a hit and miss affair, with disparate musical traditions not blending in total harmony. However, when there is a profound respect for these musical traditions and, in addition, a genuine attempt to marry them without losing the very essence of the roots, then the results can be at once outstanding and surprising with the recordings, ‘Talking Timbuktu’ or ‘Making music’, being famous and illustrative examples of successful fusion music. Happily, this new recording fits into the latter category and the pairing of a Senegalese kora player with a Cuban pianist proves to be an especially entertaining and insightful experience, and one, moreover, that enlightens us on the musical connections between West Africa and the Caribbean.
This is quite simply music that allows you, temporarily at least, to take your foot off the fast breaks and simply soak up the slower and infinitely more creative pace of life in an increasingly interconnected world. At the heart of it is the relationship between two musicians, although the substantial contribution of multi-instrumentalist Gustavo Ovalles who performs on multiple Afro-Cuban percussive instruments such as the bata drum, clavé and guataca, is most certainly worth mentioning. Thus gentle tones emanate from, ‘In the forest’, with piano and kora blending beautifully. Likewise, the lovely riff laden number, ‘Mining-nah’, impresses. For some extra helping of world roots flavours, the Japanese koto is incorporated onto the dream-like repetition of the piece, ‘Black dream’, with vocals provided by Keita himself, and another unnamed instrument that sounds akin to an accordion.
Interestingly, the kora instrumentation was recorded back in 2013 and further layers added on. Co-produced by jazz musician Steve Argüelles and Omar Sosa, this album may just end up on the ‘best of the year’ list for world roots aficionados.