African guitar music has been one of the great revelations of the Westís exploration of and interest in "world" music, and yet Africa has not produced many recognized guitar heroes. But from the fierce opening notes of this acoustic session, itís clear that Tounkara has the right stuff, and that Sigui just might be the album to put him on the guitar-hero map.
As lead-guitarist for Maliís Super Rail Band, Tounkara was much heard but rarely recognized by name. This is the first time heís stepped out on his own, and the result is breathtaking. The tough beauty of Manding traditional music comes through in his adaptations of repertoire classics: "Mande Djelilou," "Diaoura," "Sigui," "Yamaryo." We also get the seductive lilt of Latin-tinged Guinean music ("Gnima Diala"), a percussion-driven song of celebration ("Ayebo"), and a foray into flamenco ("Samakoun"). There are vocals on most tracks, as is the norm in this music, but they do not obscure Tounkaraís guitar. The ferocious precision and clarity in his playing reveal much more than technical mastery ó itís a window into a complex personality, determined but furtive, proud to a fault, but also given to romance and humor.