Djeli Mah Damba Karobal & Baba Sissoko ‘Baba et sa maman’ (Afrodisia) 3/5

The ongoing debate on West African music aimed at a local versus an international audience will continue to be voiced, but on this release it seems as though one independent record company has actually released a local cassette recorded in Bamako (still the primary medium for listening to music) onto CD format. Ideally one would have liked an enterprising company to have offered better value for money in placing two local cassettes worth of music onto a single CD and the meager thirty minute overall time is reflected in the evaluation. That said, the music itself is uncompromising with no concession whatsoever to an international audience and as such this will undoubtedly be part of its charm to the listener in search of authentic acoustic Malian music. Leader Baba Sissoko performs on large ngoni, doun doun and sings as part of a five-piece group that includes the leader’s mother, Djeli Mah Damba Karuba, who sings. The music is typified by numbers such as ‘Boli’ with talking drum, ngoni and the soku (a kind of violin) all heard to great effect with the inspirational vocals of Djeli and the up-tempo ‘Tche fari’ which has a lovely rambling feel and the talking drum in the background makes for a scintillating listening experience. As for the songs themselves, they are relatively compact in length with the longest only just over four minutes long. A worthwhile release, then, but one that requires a little more thought in terms of delivering value for money for the financially hard-pressed record buyer.

Tim Stenhouse