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Habib Koite and Bamada: Baro

Mali’s Habib Koite seems well poised to become an increasingly well-known name among African troubadours who have adapted to an agreeable and sellable Western attitude. His rolling style on acoustic-electric guitar blends with elements from traditional music of his homeland, including balafon and other West African percussion, and call-and-response vocal parts. He descends from a line of Khassonke griots and performed with fellow Malian musicians, including Toumani Diabate, before becoming a leader in his own right. But his sound is sweeter than Diabate’s, almost to a fault. On the new CD, Baro (Putumayo 192; 62:51), Koite and his group Bamada create a polished sound that jives easily with the Starbuck’s crowd, its smoothly mixed production suggesting the kind of world-beat lite going around these days. Even so, Koite has such an engagingly charismatic voice and inserts enough of his indigenous soul to draw us in and hope for more rough edges next time around.

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