Oumou Sangare – Seya

January 01, 1970





Oumou Sangare is something of a scold, always telling her fellow Malians —
especially the men — that they should behave better. So the title of her new
“Seya,” which translates as “joy,” might seem
inappropriate. Where’s the fun in broadsides like “Wele Wele Wintou,”
which declares itself “a cry for help for the young girls married under


there can be a sort of elation in trying the fix the world, however much it
resists mending. But the greatest pleasures of Seya, Sangare’s first album in five years, don’t require the
trilingual lyric sheet. (Most of the words are in French.) Sangare’s voice —
commanding yet never shrill — is one of the marvels of West
Africa, which has produced more than a few great singers. And her
music’s chiming timbres, jumpy polyrhythms and complex arrangements are
jubilant and all-encompassing. These 11 songs seamlessly fuse raucous electric
guitar and funk horns with traditional instruments and such melodies as
“Donso,” a hunter’s tune from Sangare’s native Wassoulou region.


album’s guest stars, who include drummer Tony Allen and saxophonist Pee Wee
Ellis, aren’t strictly necessary. Sangare’s music relies most heavily on the
sharp, rippling tone of the kamel n’goni (“youth harp”) and the
interplay between the singer and her female backing vocalists. These elements
are beautifully showcased on “Kounadya,” which adds flute to the formula,
and the title track, which celebrates simply being an attractive woman with a
new outfit. Among her macho countrymen, that subject may be taken as an
affront. But the real provocation is how much infectious delight Sangare shows
in singing about it.


Standout Tracks: “Kounadya,”




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