Oumou Sangare Oumou

Oumou is a reminder that revolutionary music can be made with quiet determination rather than flamboyant anger. Some 15 years ago, she made a huge splash as the first female artist to emerge from Mali's Wassoulou movement. Wassoulou was a popular dance style, whose rhythms resembled disco without the thumping kick drum, which had emerged from centuries-old griot traditions, and was frowned on by elder statesmen. Sangare took the hunter's harp (a male-only instrument) and lyrics of female perspectives on love, sex and socioeconomic problems and recorded her first disc, Moussoulou. Released globally by World Circuit, the notoriety allowed her to record abroad, incorporating subtle new influences over the course of four albums. From the horn arrangements of James Brown’s arranger Pee Wee Ellis to the near-dub bass lines sprinkled throughout, the Wassoulou sound proved adaptable to all kinds of influences. Her fusion was accomplished acoustically rather than electronically, unlike so many other African artists during the ’80s and ’90s. This greatest hits disc collects outstanding variations on Wassoulou, all crowned by her glorious voice and soulful accompanists. Eight new tracks round out this double-disc collection, released on cassette in Mali in 2003. These are even more noteworthy for the deft inclusion of electronics into her music. She understands how to deploy these influences completely as aspects of the fundamental rhythm, not as additives. This collection is beautifully paced, and should whet the appetite for another album. (Nonesuch)