Ben Zabo - Ben Zabo
Vibrant and inventive Malian Afro-beat, occasionally let down by naff blues guitar
Described as Malian Afro-Beat, Ben Zabo’s music expands its scope well beyond the Fela Kuti-inspired sounds of 1970s Bamako to incorporate the bwa rhythms and melodies of his own Bo region, alongside elements of funk and rock. Slick production has perhaps smoothed off some of the edges – the guitars and drums could use a little more bite, while the horns are a tad smooth – but it’s a minor quibble when faced with the joyous melodies, whooping vocals and balafon infused grooves of ‘Sensebo’ and ‘Bwa Iri’. Less successful is ‘Dimiyan’, an experiment in Saharan atmospherics tainted by naff blues guitar. An enjoyable, at times irresistible album, but Zabo’s vibrant and inventive music is perhaps best heard live.