by: Issa Bagayogo

Timbuktu is the first American release from Malian Issa Bagayogo. The album is a vision of Afro-electric music, a fusion of traditional African styles with electronica. This is constantly done in the dancehalls of Paris and Dakar by adding bass tracks and such over the top of existing African albums, but not with the same ability as here. The result is a flawless syncretism of Bagayogo's vocals and ngoni playing with modernized synths and effects and some worthy guitar work. In large part, the lyrical content deals with the usual traditional topics of marriage, death, and community values, though the odd song has an updated message for the youth of Mali. Musically, the mixes of genres are outstanding, with the perfect bits of electronica thrown in to accompany the otherwise somewhat bluesy sound. The title track mixes some acoustic guitar work with a nice flute loop; "Dambalou" combines a simple xylophone riff with a bit of samba, some funky guitar lines, and a large amount of dancehall production. Dance beats drip off the tracks here, with sometimes only a hint of the traditional background and sometimes a more firm rooting in the basics. It's an outstanding album for the manner in which it seamlessly fuses styles that are decently different in their essence, and executes a lineup of thumping dance tracks and more somber blues-inflected numbers alike, all worth hearing on their own. Here, you get it all together. Pick it up. ~ Adam Greenberg

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