Oumou Sangare ‘Seya [Joy]’ (World Circuit) 5/5

After a wait of six years, Oumou Sangare finally delivers a new album and what a triumph it is too. Sangare returns to the funk-driven Wassalou sound, produced by Cheikh Tidiane Seck, but this time the sound is augmented by the use of flute and percussion from Magic Malik. As ever the songs are message laden and Sangare pulls no punches in standing up for her always forthright views. Little wonder, then, that she is now a UN ambassador in addition to supporting an orphanage for street children in the Malian capital of Bamako. Several of the songs fall into the category of hypnotic mid-tempo grooves, notably the title track and ‘Sukunyou’, and on compositions such as ‘Kounadya’ female background vocals provide inspirational harmonies with a new maturity to Oumou’s delivery and a lovely hammond organ solo courtesy of Seck. More reflective is ‘Senkele te sira’ and the lilting ‘Djigui’ with flute accompaniment while ‘Wele wele wintou’ is a quasi-Afro Beat rhythm with understated use of the ngoni. The uplifting ‘Sounsoumba’ is a call for harmony within marriage and in general the overall tone is a positive one. Already making waves in France, this promises to be Oumou Sangare’s most accomplished set thus far. A winner from start to finish.

Tim Stenhouse