Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cheikh Lô: Jamm

Jon Lusk reviews Cheikh Lô's Jamm.
Perhaps it’s a case of quality not quantity, or the amount of dope he smokes, but Senegalese crooner Chiekh Lô doesn’t make albums very often. He has only released three since his bewitching international debut Ne La Thiass in 1996. And although he hasn’t really followed through on the promise of that first record, Jamm comes closer to doing this than anything since.

Lô’s music has always been roughly divided between a mellow semi-acoustic take on the surging poly-rhythms of mbalax – Senegal’s most distinctive and popular style – and the local variations on Afro-Cuban grooves loved throughout West Africa since the 1960s. Lô was born in Burkina Faso and spent his formative years there, so he’s always had quite a different take on them from other Senegalese artists, as well as several other influences.

These are brought to the fore on Jamm, which has a strong streak of nostalgia running through it, and an equal number of covers and original compositions, revealing more about his roots than any previous release. For a relatively short album, it’s surprisingly varied, or as he drolly puts it in the sleeve notes: "It’s a cocktail".
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