A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Roots Rhythms Music Reviews
By Cynthia Nakpodia-Ribeiro
Nuru Kane
Riverboat Records/ World Music Networks 2006

When great musical giants pass on, it is comforting to find new ones in the making. Devotees of Fela Kuti's afrobeat can find his sparkle and fire in Keziah Jones, the talented heir apparent. By the same token, those of us who wept when Malian blues legend Ali Farka Toure passed on should fear not, because Nuru Kane is undoubtedly the man to carry the torch of the desert blues. Young, vibrant, and talented Kane brings a range of musical influences to the table. A skilled multi-instrumentalist who specializes in playing the guimbri, or North African three-string acoustic bass, Nuru's sound is natural and further enhanced by the clarity in his voice. A member of the Muslim Baye Fall brotherhood, his lyrics draw from the words of profound philosophers from his birth place in Senegal. Kane incorporates North African gnawa trance ("Colere"), West African mbalax ("Diarama"), and the Delta blues guitar of the southern United States ("Goree") on this album, while also successfully infusing European instruments like the accordion and violin ("Talibe") seamlessly. This international debut lays claim to the beginning of a successful career, and there is little doubt that he is about to take his place in the winners' circle. Produced by Martin Swan, musicians on this international debut include Thierry Fournel, Djeli Makan Sissoko, Penny Bont, Boussaf Lakhdar, Adama Mboup and Abdelkader Tab. Take note of the track entitled Cigil, which re-introduced me to the sound of the carcabas. I'm loving it, and you will too.

Gold & Wax
Palm Pictures 2006

Prepare the right mood and setting for your date: the dimmed lights; the subtle aroma of dinner; white or red wine at perfect temperature. The only thing missing is that not-too-suggestive music selection.. You need something that's ear-catching and makes you feel eclectic, down-to-earth, worldly, spiritual yet bourgeois, and simply, a person with great taste. Look no further, because as captivated as Diane Lane's character in Unfaithful was with the Ernest Ranglin joint, you're sure to score with Gold & Wax, Gigi's newest effort . Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibawbaw's voice sounds like the enunciation of angels, caressing your eardrums with her mesmerizing singing. Over a bed of ambient grooves and an electro-dub-pop atmosphere, her singing wraps you into a spacious and airy consciousness, like music you play to stroke your inner global-nista. "Samene-Worck", the album's opening number, is sung in Ethiopian Amharic with a happy high-hat swing. Like most of the album, it's classic Bill Laswell-produced Gigi, presenting a meeting of ancient Ethiopia and contemporary electro-world. If you loved Illuminated Audio, the self-titled album Gigi, and Gigi's feature on Abyssinia Infinite, you are bound to love this output. Standout tracks are "Gomelaleye" and the enchanting English track "Utopia". Wouldn't it be interesting to see what a producer like Ry Cooder does with Ms. Shibawbaw?

Gallo 2006

Thandiswa first made her name as one-third of the South African kwaito group Bongo Maffin. Carving out her place as a strong South African solo artist, Thandiswa is considered the Mama Makeba of her generation. On Zabalaza, Thandiswa's versatility is uncompromised; she journeys from roots singing through soul-jazz, kwaito-style songs, gospel, and dance, all without making the album seem disjointed. Her singing is firm and in control; it guides you through each style she's repping on this album. On the title track "Zabalaza", she sings praise to the traditional singers of her maternal district in South Africa. Selecting a group of young musicians from her region, the album is alive with vitality and youthful exuberance while not forgetting its musical message.