Friday, May 08, 2009

West African Blues

Guardian 8 May 2009

It goes without saying that West African music is at the roots of the blues and has direct links with rock'n'roll, but it takes a duo as exhilarating and enthusiastic as this to make the connection seem obvious. Two years ago, the British guitarist and producer Justin Adams teamed up with Juldeh Camara, a Gambian griot and virtuoso on the one-stringed ritti fiddle, to record Soul Science, an album that deservedly won awards for its fusion of rock energy and traditional African influences. If anything, this follow-up is even better; it's even more confident and refreshingly varied, with songs that echo the raw exuberance of the Clash, the rolling blues of Muddy Waters and the delicacy and grandeur of the ancient griot ballads. It starts with Keli Keli, in which Adams yells: "No passport, no visa," as Camara matches the pounding guitar riff with wild fiddle work and Fulani vocals warning of the dangers facing illegal immigrants, driven on by female backing singers and the percussion of Salah Dawson Miller. Elsewhere, the interplay between the two sounds almost effortless as they switch from slinky Bo Diddley-style riffs to rolling blues with an African edge, and quieter trance-like songs. Magnificent.

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