Nahawa Doumbiam, La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 3

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 10.18.11 in Reviews
Heartfelt, timeless and rather awesome

Awesome Tapes From Africa blogger Brian Shimkowitz inaugurates his new label by reissuing an early cassette release by a Mali star. N— Hawa Doumbia was raised in Wassoulou, a region known for nurturing some of the country’s best singers, most notably Oumou Sangar—. Recorded in C—te d’Ivoire in 1982, this short album precedes Doumbia’s CD releases by several years. It captures the young singer in simpler, less-adorned arrangements — featuring finger-picked guitar, piano, percussion, and the lutelike kamale ngoni — than future producers would come to favor. The instruments fit together like rough clockwork, with the piano a subtle and unusual addition, and Doumbia flutters and wails among them with a gritty yet melodically devastating voice that’s also something of an improvisational wonder. She expresses a sense of increasing urgency on the album’s best and longest track, “Ko Ro Dia (A Mamaye Drame l’Inoubliable),” which contains hints of Mali’s nomadic Tuareg musicians. Doumbia opens “Danaya” with a 10-second note that’s one of the greatest sounds ever put on tape; it eventually leads to a wonderfully understated guitar solo, probably by her husband, Ngou Bagayoko. “Kungo Sogoni,” a final example of the pulsing didadi rhythm native to Wassoulou, features the kamale ngoni, the “young man’s harp” prominent in the region’s music. Like everything else on this rough jewel, it’s heartfelt, timeless, rather awesome, and well worth sampling.