Rokia Traore - Beautiful Africa (4 stars)

Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist works with PJ Harvey producer John Parish

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Rokia Traore - Beautiful Africa

(Nonesuch)

Rokia Traore has an extraordinary voice, a deceptively gentle alto to which she brings a vibrato that can be tender or fierce. This, her fifth album, sees Traore working with PJ Harvey producer John Parish, who deftly combines a natural live sound with analogue effects. Opening track ‘Lalla’ is the most conventionally Malian of the tracks, with kora and Ali Farka Toure style guitar. Yet Traore makes it her own by adding harmonised backing vocals and a jazzy stand-up bass. ‘Kouma’ reaches a riveting climax thanks to Polar Bear drummer Seb Rochford’s lean and driving rhythms and thrillingly raw guitars from Traore and Parish. The experiments continue on ‘Tuit Tuit’ which sees birdsong and itchy high-life guitars refracted through prisms of delay, and the remarkable title track, where Traore addresses the unrest in her homeland in an impassioned English-language rap over spitting wah-wah guitar and an infectious groove. Superb.

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Rokia Traoré - Beautiful Africa

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