BY FRED MILLS
Afrobeat of all stripes continue to make inroads with Stateside audiences, the most obvious success story being nomadic desert rockers Tinariwen, who record for the Anti- label. Now comes guitarist/vocalist Samba Touré, from Mali. Born in 1968, he achieved regional success early on with Farafina Lolo and Super Lolo, but it was his tutelage under fellow Malian and international blues legend Ali Farka Touré in the late ‘90s that cemented his reputation and gained him initial entrée to the Western music-consuming world. (He also worked with Kora maestro Toumani Diabate.) With 2011’s Crocodile Blues and 2013’s Albala his star was clearly on the rise.
With his new Gandadiko there’s something undeniably earthy, melodically compelling and rhythmically unique going on that defies rote description, but if describe I must, allow me to observe: this is seriously psychedelic stuff, and funky as a motherfucker. Reference points include, not so improbably enough, everything from such blues icons as Bo Diddley (check the signature thump of “Su Wililé) and John Lee Hooker (the droning tones of “Wo Yendé Alakar” recall “I’m In the Mood”) to Dire Straits (his clean, resonant guitar licks in “Farikoyo” are pure Mark Knopfler) and Jimi Hendrix (“Gafouré,” with its rapid-fire rhythmic and fretboard shifts alongside what appear to be—pardon my obvious language barrier here—urgent grunts and sundry vocal come-ons).
Not that the record is in any way a series of concessions to Western styles. It’s hypnotic in and of itself, and all impressions are purely in the ears/mind of the listener. This is 100% African music, not an exercise in fusion. But it’s also a decidedly rock ‘n’ roll album that aims to bridge continental constraints, one which makes sense—and gets the hips, ass and feet moving—regardless of geography, culture, or disposition.
DOWNLOAD: “Wo Yendé Alakar,” “Su Wililé”