Issa Bagayogo Mali Koura

Issa Bagayogo’s third international release deserves to find a wider audience but probably won’t. The kamele n’goni (six-string harp) player from Mali is ploughing the same furrow that earned him the nickname "Techno Issa” at the beginning of the decade. These are still folk forms with electronics and dub elements front and centre but these aren’t the soaring synth arpeggios and big beats of world fusion past. Upon closer inspection, it becomes difficult to separate the acoustic, electric and electronic elements. A track like "Dunu Kan” starts off with an out-and-out jazz template, with percolating djembe drums and n’gonis, then gradually transforms into a synth-driven, pounding, up-tempo funk groove over the course of six minutes. Such balances are achieved in many ways throughout the album. Producer Yves Wernert and Bagayogo have created a study in sonority — saxophone, accordion and Bagayogo’s auto-tuned vocals provide subtle drone elements in the mix. If you can get over the smooth, sweet tempered mix, which wouldn’t sound out of place in a Starbucks, there’s so much more to enjoy on this album. This release is both the most acoustic and electronic album he’s made yet and is definitely one of the standout African records of the year. (Six Degrees)