by: Issa Bagayogo

Bagayogo's 1999 debut (finally released in the U.S.) was a major breakthrough of sorts -- an African album that seamlessly mixed acoustic and electronic textures and was recorded in Mali with African musicians (although, to be fair, a Frenchman was responsible for the programming). As such, it has the rootedness other experiments in this field haven't been able to match, all centered around the hypnotic singing and kamele n'goni playing of Bagayogo himself. The only problem is that the tempos and rhythms remain similar, so while the opening title cut has a refreshing jog to it and some incredibly inventive rhythms, the tracks have developed a tendency to blur into each other by the time the closer, "Madomba," rolls around. But these are the first steps in a new direction (and there would be much more diversity on the follow-up), and not everything is going to work. There's a sense of discovery, and no mistaking the fact that Bagayogo has what it takes to become a major talent once he finds his focus. ~ Chris Nickson

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