Saturday, May 17, 2008

In Review--Taj Mahal Malian Excursion

Toumani Diabate in concert (wikipedia)

Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate

Hannibal Records

Released at the tail end of the last century, Kulanjan has already become a classic in my book. Bluesman Taj Mahal had been exploring his griot heritage--could feel it in his genes. The renowned musician teamed up with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, Malian vocalists Kassemady Diabate and Ramatou Diakite and other Malian musicians. The end result takes us to the crossroads where American (U.S.) blues and West African blues intersect. While it is not the only recording out there that marries these traditions, it is my personal favorite among the West African-American blues recordings.

Kulanjan provides one fantastic track after another, with no weak ones in the bunch. It opens with Queen Bee, a duet sung with Taj Mahal and Ramatou Diakite. Taj's gruff vocals gravitate around Ramatou's sweeter one. The following track, Tunkaranke features Kassemady singing soaring griot melodies over Toumani's gorgeous kora.

Ol' Georgie Buck with its silly rhymes and kora-guitar groove is my favorite on the recording. It sticks around all day long. The entire recording will give fans of Malian music a run for their money with plenty of balafon, soaring vocals, kora, and blues guitar. It's obvious these musicians were a match made in musical heaven. Revisit this classic if you already have it in your collection. And if you don't, you might wish to go out and buy the CD. As far as I know, it is still available.

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