Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Rokia Traoré: Tchamantche [Nonesuch, 2009]
With her lissome delivery, contemplative tempos, and quietly post-traditional arrangements, this daughter of Malian privilege is so subtle she can slip past you. But compared to zapless mama Marie Daulne, established businessperson Angelique Kidjo, and Les Biracial Nubians, she appropriates Euro-American notions of art and indeed gentility with taste as well as wealth. The one called "Zen" is about Buddhism, not some African kinship concept we've never heard of. She covers "The Man I Love" in English like she's got a right, then seques to a praise-chant in Bamanan prominently featuring the word "Billie." And there's also one about "nazarras," meaning Europeans--a "source de souffrance," meaning "source of suffering." A-