Mixed media: music reviews
by Les Amazones d’Afrique (Real World, MOV 012, CD, LP and digital)
Benin’s Angélique Kidjo, Mali’s Kandia (‘La Dangereuse’) Kouyaté, Nigeria’s Nneka: these are but three of the queens of west African music who crowd into this fundraiser for the Panzi Foundation, a medical charity that supports women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The foundation focuses on treating women who have injuries of gynaecological origin, including those who have suffered FGM and sexual violence. In addition, it’s an album that celebrates the concerted voices of an incredible array of African talent, with the well established, such as drummer Mouneïssa Tandina, singer Mamani Keita and Mariam Doumbia (this time without Amadou), joining forces with the lesser known.
Of this latter group, Inna Modja, a musician taught by Salif Keita, is a real ear-opener, as are Mariam and Roki Koné and the political rapper, Nneka.
These are lovely, fluid songs, all given a crystalline edge from Liam Farrell’s production. This works perfectly on the opener, ‘Dombolo’ and ‘I Play the Kora’, which is pretty much an ensemble piece. It’s a curated album, which means that there aren’t any songs in which the whole group can come together – a pity. A pity, too, that, the lyrics for the ‘Kora’ song, which originally looked forward to President Hillary Clinton, had to be changed. Nevertheless, an excellent collection and for a sadly necessary cause.
A Common Truth
by Saltland (Constellation Records CST 123, LP, CD and digital)
This strange and lovely album, the second one from cellist/composer Rebecca Foon, conjures up great lonely wildernesses, places hovering between times and spaces. It uses sound to describe how fragile the world is. Coming from the wildly interesting, utterly unclassifiable Montreal Constellation label, A Common Truth is, as you would expect it to be, laden with curious sounds. Foon’s combination of raw and multi-tracked cello creates unusual depths and presences throughout this nine-tracker and nothing seems superfluous or over-technical, despite the opportunities for sonic reorganization presented by digital technology.
Consisting mostly of instrumentals that brood and hover with a slow ambience, A Common Truth does also feature a few songs, with lyrics placed close to the cello-lines. It’s not always easy to hear Foon’s murmuring, but even so, the effect is quite sumptuous. This is composition that rejoices in its oscillatory dilations. Foon is aided by her guest, Warren Ellis – the multi-instrumentalist who has contributed so much to Nick Cave’s oeuvre – and this adds much to the sonic texture. Foon is a long-term ecological activist (and a director of the Sustainability Solutions Group), so A Common Truth is informed by the self-evident: the disaster that climate change means for the world. These deeper concerns are threaded through this beautiful and sombre work.