Various Badenya: Manden Jaliya In New York City

This is the first release in an intriguing new series from Smithsonian Folkways Records that explore the grassroots musical traditions of NYC. Badenya... showcases the songs of Guinea and Mali as recorded in a present-day American megalopolis. During the '80s, many Jali (the oral historians and performers of the Malian empire) emigrated to New York and continued the preservation of Malian culture in a new setting. This music tells 800-year-old stories, and it's what you'll still hear at ceremonies and community gatherings. The first four tracks consist of voice, xylophone-like balafon, guitar, bass and two 21-stringed koras producing a dense rhythm of strings and mallets. It's also interesting to hear funky bass pops in the mix - the bass player is incorporating American rhythm back into the traditional music, but tuned to the scales of the balafon. These tracks are the best, most driving part of the CD, and appropriately they were recorded at Ornette Coleman's studio - harmolodic would definitely be a way to describe the multifaceted rhythm, harmony and melody of this music. Elsewhere, there is an excellent balafon duet and several selections with hand drum rhythms. There are many excellent recording of Jaliya available, but this compilation is different, in that there is a wide variety of musical accompaniment. The subtle influences of blues, funk and other New York rhythms also make this a worthwhile purchase. (Smithsonian Folkways)