ALBUM: Oumou Sangaré – ‘Mogoya’

Mogoya (meaning “people today”) stands out for consummate and heartfelt musicianship that makes gentle mockery of the marketed western fare that has of late begun to bore us all. Oumou Sangaré – who has collaborated with artists such as Alicia Keys, Tracy Chapman and Dee Dee Bridgewater – kicks off the album with ‘Bena Bena’, immersing the listener in the polyrhythms of Mali from the off. But yes, if it’s all too textured and melodic for some, the cloth-eared (reared on a diet of Gary Barlow and Kylie, god help us) will struggle.

This is not a record for the perennially tone deaf. Co-produced by Andreas Unge in Stockholm and by Parisian production collective A.l.b.e.r.t. (who have worked with among others Air, Tony Allen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck and Franz Ferdinand), the record makes use of traditional Malian instruments – the kamele n’goni (harp), karignan (metal scraper) and calabash percussion – while opening the door to the electric guitar, keyboards and drums played with Clyde Stubblefield-style fervour by one-time Fela Kuti sideman, Tony Allen. ‘Yere Faga’, sung in the praise-singer or ‘griot’ tradition, builds as would an invocation, while ‘Fadjamou’ possesses the uptempo organ funk of Brother Jack McDuff. It’s a happy spilling of styles, met sweetly by the womanly call and response of ‘Mali Niale’ and ‘Minata Waraba’.

The intricacy and originality of the arrangements (hear the bassline of ‘Kounkoun’) and the sheer danceability of this nine-track record means that Mogoya ought to, by rights, be considered for wider broadcast – were it ever possible that the producers of ‘Later… with Jools’ were that broadminded…

Jason Holmes