World music roundup
Toumani Diabaté - The Monde Variations (Nonesuch, 2008)
The kora is one of the most beautiful and expressive instruments in music. A 21-string harp-lute used extensively by peoples in West Africa, Diabate is a contemporary master, and a crossover sensation who is popular at festivals and concerts. Although he plays with bands and other musicians, this is a crystal clear solo recital that is very well recorded so that the depth and breadth of the instrument shines through. The sound is light, but emotionally resonant, and the music is deeply thoughtful and meditative, sometimes melancholy, but never sorrowful.
Various Artists - African Party (Putumayo, 2008)
The mission of the Putumayo music label is to introduce people to a wide range of music from many cultures. To this end, they release sampler CD's from different geographic areas and musical genres. This is one of the most successful of their discs I have heard, focusing on the upbeat celebratory music of the African continent. While none of the names found on this disc may be immediately familiar, the groups play some very upbeat and enjoyable music which is buoyed by insightful horn charts and percussion.
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