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Baaba Maal: Missing You

From the first glorious moments of the new album from Baaba Maal, Missing You…Mi Yeewnii, something is clearly different, and fetching. Wrapping his signature voice, all power and grace, around the song “Yoolelle Maman,” Maal makes the implicit announcement that he has come home for this project. The masterful singer from Senegal has enjoyed a high-profile career on the international music scene, and past Maal projects have embodied his efforts to blend West African and extra-African elements-mainly American soul roots. This one, though, was largely recorded in Senegal, in the village of Nbunk, and ambient sounds of the outdoors can be heard at times, mixing in with the natural sound of music. Rippling guitars, kora, gently surging percussion and call-and-response vocals abound, enveloping Maal’s voice in settings that emphasize things acoustic and natural, yet never lacking for energy. His innately funky, kora-influenced guitar playing opens the song “Senegalle Ngummee,” a tune propelled by a rhythm that comes from the family tree that John Lee Hooker got his stuff from. As blithe as the music is, Maal addresses social tensions and closes the album with the heated anthem, “Allah Addu Jam,” a soulful wail for peace, as only Maal can state it.

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