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Bembeya Jazz: Bembeya

The latest release from Guinean group Bembeya Jazz features its unique Afro-pop lineup of four guitars, three singers, traps, percussion, alto and tenor saxes and trumpet. Although they have entered their fifth decade, in Bembeya (World Village), they hit a new high in their illustrious career. The group’s sound and performances are tighter, wiser, more relaxed, grooving and eager than ever. An ensemble commanded into existence by nascent government cultural policies in 1961, they would use Hawaiian slide guitar, Afro Caribbean music and various Western musical influences to further develop traditional African music. This is a Western African dance band steadily on top of the beat with riffed arrangements and heavy on groove, as on “Soli au Wassoulou” and “A Koukou We.” On the former, percussionist Papa Kouyate and the percolatingly fragrant playing of Sekou Diabete Bembeya on guitar glow. On “Gbapie,” love is searched for and found, as the Hawaiian slide guitar becomes the leading character in the passage from courtship to heavy percussive love.

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