Published Jun 27, 2018With Routes, Senegalese kora master Diali Cissokho and band Kaira Ba trace the musical steps between the American South and the west of Africa. In the process, the North Carolina-based collective forge a delightfully earnest and ambitious project.
Recorded primarily in Senegal — in Cissokho's hometown of M'bour — and transported back to the States to layer over some local talent in the mix, the 11-track album largely delivers on its expansive, well-travelled motif. Cissokho and producer-slash-bassist Jonathan Henderson have set out an grand task that succeeds for the most part with strong percussive, kora, string and jazz elements.
Lead track "Alla L'a Ke" wears its multi-layered mindset proudly, frenetically leaning on a kora-fuelled foundation with strings and an Afro-pop mentality mixed in. "Salsa Xalel" rides on its Latin flavour by way of American gospel and West Africa sounds — including balafon and tama drums — expertly weaved in. The melodies of "Ma Chérie" and "Baayi Leen" unfold like cool summer nights; the rock treatment of "Story Song" feels a touch too earnest, but numbers like "Night in M'Bour" and "Xarit" offer fanciful atmospheres that reflect the level of craft involves.
Routes goes places; it's a journey that takes its time to get there, but is well worth the trip. (Twelve/Eight)