Super Onze - Gao (4 stars)

Malian group deliver ecstatic desert music at its best

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Super Onze - Gao

(Sahel Sounds)

Saharan desert blues begins here. Formed in the early 80s, Super Onze are the masters of Takamba, a style originating in the Songhai region of Mali that combines the ngoni (West African lute) with heavy calabash percussion and passionate vocals. This is a celebratory music, performed at weddings, birth ceremonies and religious festivals.

Recorded in the early 90s, Gao is the first vinyl release of Super Onze's music, and features a different lineup of the band to that on the 2011 CD on Two Speakers. The sound is rawer here, with the tranced-out buzz of the electrified ngoni up front and the vocals in a supporting role. Over the relentless click-boom beat of the calabash, ngoni masters Yahia Mballa Samaké and Douma Maïga spool out a spider's web of shredding syncopated runs and mesmeric pedal-points, while the singers praise the holy man Yehia. Ecstatic desert music at its best.

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