It’s great to hear Kadialy Kouyate firmly back in his own Mandinka territory. This latest album Na Kitabo (My Book) by the kora player and singer is rooted in his own Senégalese tradition and has all the hallmarks of a classic in the making. The themes of the songs counteract humanity’s current obsession with negativity in the world and focus instead on happiness.
In his own words, a griot’s purpose in life is to unify people with harmony, and these songs encourage change to create a better, happier society. He is joined by Gregory Sanders-Gallego on guitar, Giuliano Osella on drums, Mulele Matondo on bass and with guest musicians Abdoulaye Samb on guitar and Robyn Hemmings on Double bass.
The album begins with the upbeat ‘Du Courage’, in which he urges people to be brave and not give up hope. Some of the arrangements are quite densely produced, while others provide variety with their charming, sparse quality.
Stand-out tracks on the full-length album (eleven tracks in all) are ‘Kouyate Nana’, with its lovely kora playing and powerful vocals sung in Kadialy’s soft, melodious voice. ‘Dankeneya’ is a catchy anthem, while ‘Samah’ has a beautiful acoustic earthy sound. The closing track ’Khadija’ is a delightful instrumental of timeless guitar and kora playing.