218

Ismael Lo: Senegal

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Ismael Lo: Senegal For every world music enthusiast who celebrates musical cross-pollination, there's a naysayer bemoaning the risk that the mix will only produce a watered-down lowest common denominator. Of course the enthusiasts have lots of support for their position: Youssou N'Dour's Egypt (Nonesuch, 2004) masterfully combined Senegalese mbalax and Arabic classical music, while Thione Seck's Orientation (Stern's Africa, 2005) added Indian music to N'Dour's Senegalo-Egyptian mix with equally dazzling results.

Sénégal, the first album of new material by Ismaël Lo in over five years, is at least in part one for the naysayers. Lo incorporates vaguely North African elements on "Incha Allah and vaguely South African elements on "Tass Yakar —appealing gestures, with high production values to boot, but more of a murky international pop stew than the aforementioned records by his compatriots N'Dour and Seck.

Elsewhere—on "Le Jola, which mourns the victims of the horrific 2002 Dakar-Casamance ferry accident that claimed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic, and on "Plus je fais ci, plus je fais ça —Lo introduces a vague reggae shtick, but without conviction. Compare this to the genuine use of reggae elements by the London-based Afro-beat band Soothsayers on their excellent Tangled Roots (Red Earth, 2006) to get a sense of how powerful this mix might be.

I allude to the examples of N'Dour, Seck and Soothsayers here precisely to illustrate that cross-pollination can yield excellent results. It's nevertheless the case that the best numbers on this record are a handful of mid-tempo mbalax tunes ("Manko, "Jiguen )—that is, the songs that stick closest to the Senegalese elements that Lo presumably knows best.

Lo was tagged as the "African Bob Dylan early on, because he played the acoustic guitar and the harmonica, and because of the social content of his lyrics. Sénégal marks a further step away from that musical identity, although he does play a little guitar and harmonica on this record. "Ma fille, a sentimental father's lament upon his daughter's marriage, borrows the acoustic guitar riff from Oasis's 90s hit "Wonderwall, and it's affecting. When Lo sings "mbindane du jaam — your servant is not a slave—on "Mbindane, the folky setting carries a sense of political conviction.

Perhaps the surest sign of what this record means for Lo's musical development is his remake of his long-ago smash hit, "Tajabone, a reminiscence about a children's game, apparently. The new version has the same guitar and harmonica arrangement as the original, but Lo's voice is a little fuller. He's also now accompanied by an autumnal string section that brings the whole affair rather close to the Rolling Stones's "As Tears Go By. Which is to say, a little maudlin.

Lo's insistence on singing in Wolof on all but two tracks—not even providing French or English translations in the liner notes—vigorously counters the sappy universalism of the musical treatments and is to be applauded.


Track Listing: Baykat; Incha Allah; Tass yakar; Le Jola; Taar dousey; Manko; Yaye boye; Plus je fais ci, plus je fais a; Mbindane; Wakhal; Ouvriers; Jiguen; Ma fille; Tajabone.

Personnel: Ismal Lo: vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards; Abdoulaye Aw: bass; Michel Aym: bass guitar, keyboard programming; Philippe Balatier: keyboards and programming; Pierre Bertrand: saxophone, flute; Philippe Brun: guitar; Papa Figaro Diagne: keyboards; Pathe Dieng: African percussion; El Hadji Malik Diouf: guitar; Christophe Dutray: trumpet; Eric Fernandez: guitar; Philippe Georges: trombone; Nicolas Gueret: saxophone; Philippe Henry: trombone; Yann Martin: trumpet; Gioacchino Maurici: keyboard programming; Abib Ndiaye: drums, percusssion; Catherine Nguyen: violin; Paul Thierry Oliveira: keyboards; Theirry Boucou Pastel: percussion; Stan Renoult : arrangements, string conducting; Claude Salmieri: drums; Jean-Philippe Schevingt: sound operator; Denis Van Hecke: cello; Laurent Vernerey: bass; Olisa, Queen Etm and Diano Solo: backing vocals.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Universal Music France | Style: Latin/World


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Ena / One" CD/LP/Track Review Ena / One
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 26, 2016
Read "To The Universe" CD/LP/Track Review To The Universe
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 14, 2016
Read "Akustik InventYours" CD/LP/Track Review Akustik InventYours
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 3, 2016
Read "Spacebound Apes" CD/LP/Track Review Spacebound Apes
by Phil Barnes
Published: September 14, 2016
Read "Zenith" CD/LP/Track Review Zenith
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!