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Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita: Transparent Water

Roger Farbey By

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Cuban Pianist Omar Sosa and Senegalese kora player and vocalist Seckou Keita have assembled an extraordinary album seamlessly melding Latin American and West African music. Additional guest instrumentalists bring with them a host of other sounds predominantly emanating from the Far East. The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument whilst the sheng is a Chinese mouth-blown free reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes. The bawu is a Chinese wind instrument and the geomungo is a traditional Korean type of zither. Notwithstanding that the kora is one of the main instruments on the album, it would have been useful to map every instrument played to their respective tracks, since presumably only listeners with expert knowledge would have been in a position to recognise all of them. But this is a very minor quibble and on an impressionistic level doesn't in any way detract from the appreciation of the music.

"Dary" sets out the template for the ensuing tracks on this extraordinary album. There's a gentle rhythm which underscores the subtle melodies and there's a fantastic balance between the potentially overwhelming piano (which it never becomes) and fragility of the stringed instruments. There's even a faintly perceptible sound of running water, in recognition of the record's name. This delicateness is continued with the languid "In The Forest" the kora and piano punctuated only by the tintinnabulation of a finger cymbal and silence.

"Mining-Nah" evinces a foot-tapping quality, the piano and kora merging inextricably and embellished by winsome vocals. "Tama-Tama" is characterised by pulsating percussion, harmonic vocals and an enchanting, memorable tune. "Another Prayer" elevates the set into transcendental territory whereas the Latin-esque rhythmic pulse of "Fatiliku" permeates the sung melody and crucially there's the added bonus of a playful, repeated quote from the famous Cuban song "El Manisero" otherwise known as the famous "The Peanut Vendor" which underpins the whole piece.

"Peace Keeping" is permeated by erratic swathes of bluesy piano whilst the dulcet "Moro Yeye" evokes a feeling of the rainforest. The profound serenity of the album is encapsulated in all its numbers but perhaps never more so than in "Recaredo 1993." The subtlety of "Thiossane" too seems to symbolise the fragile skein of notes that unites the musicality of two continents, the kora and piano mesmerically intertwining. This epitome of World music is, as suggested by its title, perfectly limpid and even evanescent, its constituent elements rapidly passing through like cirrus clouds.

Track Listing: Dary; In The Forest; Black Dream; Mining-Nah; Tama-Tama; Another Prayer; Fatiliku; Oni Yalorde; Peace Keeping; Moro Yeye; Recaredo; Zululand; Thiossane.

Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano, keyboards, electronics, marimba, vocals; Seckou Keita: kora, djembe, talking drum, sabar, vocals; Gustavo Ovalles: bata drums, culo'e puya, clave, maracas, guataca, calabaza; Plus: Mieko Miyazaki: koto; Wu Tong: sheng, bawu; Mosin Khan Kawa: nagadi; E’Joung-Ju: geomungo; Dominique Huchet: bird EFX.

Title: Transparent Water | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: World Village


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