Ablaye Cissoko and Volker Goetze – Amanké Dionti [enhanced CD] – Motéma MTM-84, 43:43 ***1/2:
(Volker Goetze – producer, trumpet; Ablaye Cissoko – vocals, kora; Joe Quitzke – percussion (track 4))
The pairing of New York City-based, German-born trumpeter Volker Goetze and Sengalese griot/vocalist and kora player Ablaye Cissoko results in music of sublime spirituality, where introspection and space give a feeling of rumination, meditation and intimate interchange. Amanké Dionti is the duo’s sophomore record and first for the Motéma label and follows in the footsteps of their 2008 debut, Sira. Like that release, Amanké Dionti focuses on Cissoko’s lyrical reflections, while Goetze supplies softly melodic lines, often muted and, in this case, blanketed by the natural reverb shaped by the recording space used for this album, the Parisian church Bon Secours.
Cissoko comes from an extended line of West African griots, and thus has been guided to be a storyteller, praise singer, poet and musician: a repository of oral tradition. As such, Cissoko can devise music about current events and everyday incidents as well as having the ability to recall a deep well of historical subject matter. Themes on this 43-minute, seven-track outing embrace the vulnerability of art within communal confines, modern servitude, geographical homage and the 2010 Haitian earthquake and its lingering aftereffects. Goetze and Cissoko commence with the serene, plainly beautiful cut “Kana Maloundi.” The lonely tones of the kora (a 21-stringed African instrument which sounds like a composite of the Japanese koto, a lute and a harp) enter first, and then Cissoko begins to sing in Mandinka, using his melancholic and tender tenor voice, about an appeal to society to respect all forms of art. Goetze’s delicate trumpet slips in and out of the arrangement, usually as a solo counterpoint to the vocals. Up next is the title track (which can be translated as “She is not your slave”), the most controversial piece. While the music is refined and sympathetic, Cissoko’s tale is not: he challenges one of Senegal’s collective issues, where young women from poor rural areas serve as virtual slaves for richer urban families. It’s a concern which is well known but rarely publicly discussed. By bringing a private conflict to a global audience, Cissoko defies the custom of examining local problems only within a regional area. Another number which addresses suffering is “Haïti,” where Cissoko conveys the devastation which killed hundreds of thousands and left over a million homeless, but also muses on the greed and corruption which plagued the island nation before and after the destruction.
The compact disc includes a 5:24 video excerpt (with English subtitles) of the song “Haïti,” which is a portion of Goetze’s feature-length documentary, Griot (which he filmed during the making of Sira). [Good – many enhanced CDs are coming out with data and publicity but no videos in the enhanced portion…Ed.] The picture opened in early May at New York City’s Cantor Film Center. While most of the material is condensed to kora, vocals and trumpet, the up-tempo instrumental “Silo” adds percussionist Joe Quitzke. The evocative kora and percussion interplay has a vigorous rhythmic flow, while trumpet courses on top. “Silo” is African jazz fusion at its best. Cissoko and Goetze close with the traditional cut, “Miliamba,” which recounts the saga of virgin sacrifices to ancient gods, which Cissoko equates to the adverse injustices and intolerance which still afflict nations and individuals. Keeping with the album’s foundation of social conscience, ten percent of sales will benefit a charity effort to empower African communities via positive social transformation.
TrackList: Kana Maloundi; Amanké Dionti; Togna; Silo; Fleuve; Haïti; Miliamba.
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