by: Baaba Maal

On Television, Baaba Maal collaborates with Didi Gutman and Sabina Sciubba of New York's Brazilian Girls to fashion an album that combines subtle electronica with his own kind of Senegalese pop. The album took three years to record, and one track, the softly percolating dance tune "International," appeared the previous year on the Brazilian Girls CD New York City. The tune is club-friendly, with Maal delivering an unusually subdued vocal. The mix here is shorter and lacks the dub-like effects the Brazilian Girls dropped between verses on New York City. The album opens with the title track, a Maal/Brazilian Girls collaboration. A muted guitar figure that sounds like a music box floats below a funky samba-like beat. The African percussion embroiders the mix without overwhelming the bouncy club pulse. "Tindo" blends a drum loop, talking drum, and electric bass to propel the subtle intertwining vocals of Maal and Sciubba. "Miracle" sounds like South African jive. Long sustained electric guitar notes introduce this lilting, happy dance tune and Maal and Sciubba turn in a playful duet that skims across the glittering surface of the music. "Cantaloupe" was written by Maal, Gutman, and Barry Reynolds, the guitar player with the legendary Compass Point studio band. The melody has the Latin/Caribbean feel typical of American '30s movie musicals, while Maal contributes a traditional Senegalese vocal. A programmed rhythm track starts about midway through, to add a modern element to another laid-back track. Maal and Sciubba co-wrote "A Song for Women," a tune praising the power of African women, and it's another surprisingly mellow effort. Maal's vocals float in and out of the mix in a dub-like manner; hand percussion accents the song's drum loop without overwhelming its steady thrum. The album closes with two simmering acoustic tracks. "Dakar Moon," sung by Maal partially in English, has a vague Caribbean lilt that recalls the Cuban hotel music of the island's pre-revolutionary past. Sounds of nature -- the wind in palm trees, the shushing of the tide -- fill the background with Barry Reynolds adding some flamenco-flavored guitar. "Tindo Quando," another take on "Tindo," features Maal's acoustic guitar and a subtle balafon supporting the vocals of Maal and Sciubba. Sciubba sings a counter-melody in Italian to complement Maal's Fonyi vocal. Both singers hold back to show off the softer, melodic side of their vocal prowess. ~ j. poet

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