This is one of the many acts I missed at Bonnaroo that I know nothing about. Yay for website information!
"The Nightingale of the North" is from Mali who sings in Sonrai, Arabic, and Tamashek, while accompanied by a huge variations of instruments and rhythms from electronic to traditional. Or at least, that's what all the sites say. She's been performing in public since about 1970, at the age of 11, and with various circle along the way.
This lady has had quite a life. After a divorce in the early 80's, she spent a lot of time working with a cultural group, and wound up organizing an ensemble who's front woman was forbidden by her own father from performing. Khaira took the stage instead, and this became known as the start of the second leg of her career.
This album is considered her masterpiece. It was actually released in 2002, but the date we are given is 2011 - the year of her US debut. There are beautiful things written about this woman, her music, and her devotion to it, and I can't wait to see what we're actually in store for here.
The title track is the lead track here with "Ya rassoul." I'm surely not going to understand much of, if any of what's being said, so this really boils down to feeling the music above all else. In this one, you can almost see it - there is some steady dancing to the beat, singing along at the appropriate moments. The most interesting thing here is the guitar being used as another vocal instrument. I would have never expected to hear that on such an album, but there it is, singing its own line and keeping things just incredible soulful and beautiful.
"Tombouctou" takes things at a little slower of a pace, but there is so much damn feeling behind her voice here. I have no idea what she's saying, but I want to meditate to it for the first minute. When the other voices come in, things sort of pick up pace wise, and it looses that meditative state that was so beautiful at the start. I'm not saying there' not still beauty in it, but it's just a different mode than expected, changing the feeling towards the song immensely. Then again, you win some and loose some - this is just not a win for me anymore.
If I were a dumber American, I would say that "Amandiath" has lyrics that say "gimmie money," but I know that's not the case. I literally just don't know what they're saying. The song moves steadily and pretty well, just along in one spot repetitively, not really taking us much of anywhere. It's almost like a Mali jam song, as far as I can tell. Sort of cool with the guitar and something that sounds like muted bagpipes in the background. It's definitely something.
"Sayidi" sounds much more traditional Indian than anything else so far, then these drums and funk guitar sink in and we're brought somewhere completely different. I'm about to do something awful... but if you saw the Bali dream on "Smash," this is like a toned-down, different language-d version of that. It could easily call for dancers and bright colors.
I have my volume down far too low for this album. There are subtleties that make and break the entire listening experience from the very beginning of some songs. Thank goodness my apartment is so quiet this time of night, or I would have missed the light strings that kick off "Koti Koti." There really is an awesome layering a string work done here. I don't know exactly what all of the instruments used are, but they have different pitches and materials that contribute to this awesome sound.
"Ehe Youma" is very light, but not enough so to relax to. There's a bass shaker going, keeping the beat just fast enough to keep a toe tapping to. It's not terribly out-stand-ish from the rest of the album, but it maintains the same interesting uses of melodies and voices that have been intriguing all along. At about 3:20 in, she has this little break and beat that changes it up, just for a moment, into something unexpected, and my head's back in the game.
You have to watch this live video of the bad at work. In-cred-i-ble.
"Lili Yore" just seems to keep that spirit going. I'm not necessarily bored by the sound, but it's getting more and more natural to listen to. Less surprising doesn't necessarily mean worse, it just means the sound is integrating into our ears and becoming something more appealing as time goes on (I know, obviously, there are exceptions to this in the complete opposite direction). The guitar plays on, the beat keeps going.
I feel it appropriate to label this next one as R&B, even if it's just a little off. If you listen to "Boibini," you'll hear what I mean. The beat is smooth and groovy as it goes, even with the flowing words overtop. It's easy-listening, even when the higher pitches are hit. Everything's just easy, but modern here, like there were some definitely Western influences throughout the track. It's unlike anything I would have, or really could have, expected on this album.
"Aigna" is our final track. It's nothing truly epic, but instead a nice play out of everyone and everything we've heard so far. It's a final, calm celebration of the music and the light it's clearly come from. There's just the familiar, soft, yet inspiration feel of the music coming to a close and enveloping us in a sort of end to the night. This needs to be going on with dancing around a fire, is what I'm getting at.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Ya rassoul"
- "Koti Koti"
All-in-all, this was a very different and humbling experience. I've heard this sort of music before, but never in such a large quantity all at once, or wish as much passion clearly behind it. This was a very different and very welcome experience that I considered eye-opening to another part of the musical world, and maybe even world in general.