One of the most sensational voices in Maliís Manding griot tradition, Kasse Mady is best known internationally for his work with Taj Mahal on the Kulanjan recording and the subsequent tour. This spontaneous, unadorned set was recorded by the Mexican Corazón label in the singerís home town, Kela, and it attests to why tradition and pop are hard to separate in Mali.
The session amounts to a high-tech field recording, but it includes two Afro-Cuban numbers, "Maimouna" and Orquesta Aragónís "Balomina Mwanga." Kasse Mady famously interpreted these songs back in the í70s, when he was playing in Malian fusion bands. Here he revisits them using traditional instruments, the wooden balafon in place of piano, and djembe drum in place of congas.
Many songs are drawn from Manding musicís rich repertoire, like the opener "Eh Ya Ye," with its rolling balafon lines and plinky acoustic guitar, crisp female voices in a swinging chorus with the slap of a djembe keeping time, and that wonderful, relaxed voice at the center. "Kaba Mansa" has a mystic air, with its cycling, minor-key vamp. There are songs from huntersí tradition and harvest celebrations, but in the end, this is a pop record, tersely arranged, and loaded with hooks and melodies.