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Oumou Sangare: Moussoulou

The dynamic Malian vocalist Oumou Sangare is one of those singers whom westerners are inclined to call a true blue soul queen, whatever the particular idiomatic affiliation. She cuts a powerful image and makes an assured vocal presence, whether live or on record, as heard on the cleaned-up reissue of her 1989 album, Moussoulou (Nonesuch/World Circuit 79575; 32:04). She also is unabashed at expressing social indignation, particularly with regards to women’s rights, in a country not famous for recognizing sexual equality. The title translates to “women” and the music percolates with a kind of gentle but insistent rhythmic energy. Soft percussion sizzles in the margins of the groove, but mostly a sense of internally-charged propulsion is created by a band of traditional instruments, electric guitar and bass, violin, the 5-string kamalengoni and all-for-one background vocal retorts. Up front, Sangare-who has, in the decade since this recording become a star of widening acclaim-takes charge, firmly and poetically, in a benevolently queenly way.

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