Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Ba Power [Glitterbeat, 2015]
The Sahara boom in hard-rocking bands more supersonic than the non-African competition is due primarily to the spread of desert guitar--Dan Auerbach, meet Bombino Moctar. But none has rocked harder or livelier than Bassekou Kouyate's family business, where the part of the guitar is played by one, two, many modified lutes called ngonis. Even harder and livelier than 2013's breakout Jama Ko, this lacks the righteous fervor that fueled that explicitly anti-Islamist defense of a Mali "where Islam and tolerance exist," as the new "Abe Sumaya" puts it. Its fervor is formal. Four tracks add trap drums to the hand-held percussion, Jon Hassell haunts another with trumpet and keyboards, and auxiliary white musicians pitch in without butting in. There are also full translated lyrics, which as happens with Afropop isn't always a plus. I'm glad Kouyate's lead singer and wife Amy Sacko gets one called "Musow Fanga (Power of Woman)." But especially given how powerfully she makes herself felt whenever she opens her mouth, I'm not so glad it equates that power with motherhood. A-