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Künstler: Kaira Ben
Label: Stern's Music


Singa is a fairly short but reasonably sweet debut disc by the group Kaira Ben, formed in Europe by a mix of Senegalese and Malian musicians. The latter element dominates -- lead singer Idrissa Magassa hails from Senegal but he played with Zani Diabate's much-missed Super Djata Band alongside Zoumana Diarra, scion of a Malian griot family, who co-wrote all the material with the third core member, percussionist/producer Abdramane Fall. "Bamba" opens close to traditional with bubbling balafon and acoustic guitar flavored with prominent sax from Tidiane Kone. Magassa has an appealing voice (even traces of Richie Havens' huskiness at times) and the arrangements are a bit more uptempo and busy than the African music norm. The title track is absolutely classic, in the sense that it's supposedly an original but you've heard the guitar lines, balafon, and vocal melodies before. "Tounga" is even more so; with just voices, goni (n'goni), and the spare string bed here (and reprised on "Sara"), Magassa is given room to go off -- but he keeps it fairly cooled out, singing forcefully without oversinging. "Masani Cissé" features crying sax fills and electric guitar, but it's still fairly kicked back. "Moussou Loule" is far livelier and uptempo -- the sax touches are one of the few distinctive traits in the music -- and "Zé Me Fo" moves along briskly, too, but it's not like Kaira Ben ever really kicks out the jams. Low-key and tasteful are the words, Magassa's singing is the whole game, and fortunately it never wears out its welcome -- but the group never stretches the forms. Echoes abound in the music on Singa, and it's nowhere near original or dynamic enough to escape the West African pop pack. ~ Don Snowden