ARC Music Productions Int. Ltd.
CD: 11 Songs; 47:16 Minutes
Styles: West African Blues and Folk
Every industry has its own subset of jargon, and the music industry is no exception. At first glance, laymen may not know what “CRM,” “mechanical royalties” or “creative commons” are. (Yours truly had to look them up on an Australian website that had a glossary of such words.) Another term that’s more common is “niche market”, which applies to a whole range of businesses. To put it simply, ESPN is for sports enthusiasts; the Lifetime channel is geared toward women, and the West African Blues Project is aimed at people who like this type of music.
Featuring Senegalese vocalist Modou Touré and Ramon Goose, it presents a broad range of West African melodies fused with blues, which may not appeal to all fans. If they’re looking for American-style stomps and boogies, they shouldn’t look here. However, if their search encompasses blues from around the world, with truly native influences, they’ve found gold.
This CD, made in Austria via a Canadian production company, consists of eleven original songs sung in Wolof, Mandinka (two languages spoken in the African country of Senegal) and French. Modou Touré inherited his incredible vocal prowess from his father, Ousmane Touré, who sang for a time with the band Touré Kunda. Collectively, they were noted for popularizing Senegalese world music, performing and singing in six languages during a career that spanned thirty years. They even collaborated with American bands Carlos Santana and Talking Heads. British guitar maestro Ramon Goose has toured with Louisiana blues legend Chris Thomas King, James Brown’s saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, Eric Bibb and harpist Charlie Musselwhite.
Performing along with Modou Touré on vocals and Ramon Goose on acoustic, electric and slide guitar are Malcolm Miles on saxophone, Ákos Hasznos on electric and double bass, Eric Ford on drums, Abdoulaye Samb on guitar, Joe Goose on electric bass, Diabel Cissokho on kora, Ed Van Der Mark on electric bass, Tim Hillsdon on drums, and Papa Omar on percussion.
The following song sounds the most like traditional U.S. blues, while still vibrantly African:
Track 05: “Kayre” – Listening to this tune’s intro, one might think it’s a catchy New Orleans-style number, with smoking saxophone and a tempo that’s perfect for a spin on the dance floor. Every instrument is primed to perfection, especially Malcolm Miles on his favored brass horn and a bouncy electric bass back-beat by Joe Goose. As for Touré’s vocals, they’re filled with warmth and power, like a sunrise over the Serengeti plains. The CD liner notes explain that track five is a “warrior song which depicts a fight for freedom and liberty. A fight against human suffering and slavery”. In this postmodern age, all of us are continuing the battle to stay free.
This album takes a lot of getting used to, if one has been eating a steady diet of meat-and-potatoes American blues sung in English. Nevertheless, once the propinquity effect sets in, the West African Blues Project is worth savoring for its native continent’s flavor!