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April 1997

Various Artists
Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond
Ellipsis Arts
Ismael Lo
Jammu Africa
Sankara

It's another corner of the African experience entirely that forms the core of the new package Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond (Ellipsis Arts 3510; 74:54). Jali Kunda (Griot Family) offers at least a cursory glance at the ancient tradition of music-making, mythologizing, and oratory that is the griot's calling. Produced by Foday Musa Suso-who has helped spread awareness of the griots abroad as any single figure-and Bill Laswell, and with cameo appearances from figures as diverse as Philip Glass and Pharoah Sanders, the album is hardly a purist examination of the griot tradition. Instead, it presents 75 minutes of music from both the heart and the cross-cultural periphery of traditional West African music. True to form for Ellipsis Arts projects, this one is handsomely packaged, with a booklet suitable for coffee table perusers, chock full of color photography, an essay by Suso and an illuminating forward by Robert Palmer.

Originally published in April 1997
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