From the first flowing notes of the kora (harp-lute) on this masterful album of West African kora music, Dembo Konte embraces the listener. Enter Kausu Kuyateh’s remarkably inventive kora playing and the listener is instantly transported. And when Mawdo Suso’s balafon (rosewood xylophone) joins in to fill out the sound it is evident the listener is about to embark on a wondrous musical journey -- a journey through an evolving West African cultural soundscape that is as fresh today as it has been for countless generations.
For the most part the songs on Jaliology were composed by Dembo, Kausu and Mawdo and run the gamut from captivating praise songs to Mandinka (Manding region encompassing Gambia and Senegal) waltz-like rhythms ("Dudo Touray").
The singing throughout the album is as mesmerizing and powerful as the music. The harmonies are at once beautiful and eerie, with call-and-response vocals adding an extra percussive feel.
Though original compositions, the melodies are based on traditional tunes or written within a traditional format of "theme-variation" (akin to blues or jazz). The themes consist of short, repeated melodic riffs over which each musician improvises. All three of the musicians on this album are well known for their individual improvisational styles, particularly Kauso who embellishes his solos with a distinctive blues feel. Unpredictable and wild, always fluid, his 23-string kora cascades over and under the melody. The instrumental "Alisewo" is a standout example of Kausu’s prowess.
Jaliology is a capsule presentation of the Mandinka culture. It is a collection of songs of praise, remorse, politics and life. It is a journey well worth taking.
Artists: Kausu Kuyateh, Mawdo Suso