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Ballake Sissoko/Driss El Maloumi/Rajery


Mad Minute Music / Six Degrees
Review by Bruce Miller

This mostly instrumental, acoustic album from three African virtuosi does much more than show off talent; it draws together musicians from Mali (Kora master Sissoko), Morocco (Oud specialist El Maloumi) and Madagascar (Valiha player Rajery) to show how naturally music dispenses with boundaries when left to roam, as so many of these tracks seem to do. In fact, their instrumental voices blend effortlessly, and it often becomes difficult to discern who is playing what. Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to the fact that all three players wrote and arranged everything here. Perhaps it’s the web-like patterns, unfurled like quilts that come from giving stringed instruments so much room to dance. More amazing still is the fact that Rajery comes at his instrument without a right hand, due to an amputation. It also allows him in particular to eschew the slick, canned backing tracks of his more commercial work.

Picking individual tracks from this set for particular praise seems futile. However, “Samedi Glace” is a two-minute burst of driving string-weaving without chord changes to get in the way. “Moustique” is a dervish dance of a tune with a pulse occasionally interrupted by the tune’s head, and plenty of solos as each player gets to shine and anchor the others. The final track, “Awal,” contains incidental vocal drones that seem to seep up from the instruments these guys are playing. It’s a slow, languorous track with woven instrumental telepathy from all three musicians. - Bruce Miller

Photo ©2017 Cyrille Choupas


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