Mory Kanté is a legend. Born in Guinea, he started as a balafon player and rose to regional stardom in the 1970s. He became quite a sensation in Europe and climbed the world pop charts with songs like Yeke Yeke in the ‘80s; kept a low profile in the ’90s, to return home to his native Guinea and become an inspirational voice for a new generation of Africans (he doubles as Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN).
Optimism and inspiration are themes that pervade the songs on Kanté’s eleventh album, La Guinéenne. This is both a love song to Africa and a treasure chest of hard-nosed advice about trust, hard work, gratitude, and the importance of maintaining traditions in the face of modernity. In this album, Mory Kanté pays a tribute to Women, whose sacrifice, dedication, and centrality to human progress is too often met with oppression and neglect.
La Guinéenne marks Kanté’s return to his trademark, big band sound. He recorded the original tracks for La Guinéenne in Conakry, at a moment of deep political turmoil. Kanté then took the tracks to Paris, where he worked closely with producer Philippe Avril to complete the album. The result is a bi-cultural creation, rooted in authentic West African folklore, and gleaming with the polish and precision of top-flight contemporary production.
However, if you cannot understand the text, the album fails to impress. Long gone is the silver light of Yeke Yeke. In La Guinéenne one sees the quality of the maestro, but fails to see a spark of novelty. Yet, the genius is still at work. Tracks like Nata, Dimimi and Mana Mana Ko do have something new to offer. All in all, an album worth listening, if you like the particular sound of Guinean music.
Mory Kanté, La Guinéenne, Discograph 2012