Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Noura Mint Seymali

  • Tzenni [Glitterbeat, 2014] B+
  • Arbina [Glitterbeat, 2016] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tzenni [Glitterbeat, 2014]
Like her stepmother, Mauritanian iggawin queen Dimi Mint Abba, Seymali has one of those foghorn voices that wears you down after it's knocked you over. Complete lyrics probably wouldn't help that much, but not knowing every word hurts. So what kept this album in the play pile for me was less the singing than the band, which with Seymali playing a traditional females-only harp is anchored by another hereditary griot, her guitarist husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly. Justly, they regard theirstyle as a modernizing, genre-bending "fusion." In fact, the musician who stands out mans a trap set. His name is Matthew Tinari, he's from Pennsylvania, and he manages them. Good for him. B+

Arbina [Glitterbeat, 2016]
Seymali's wonder-of-nature, awesome-as-in-forbidding voice doesn't oblige ordinary Bombino or Khaira Arby fans to like it any more than ordinary boxing fans need appreciate the finer points of mixed martial arts. So it's good that her second album moderates that deep, accomplished sandblast a little--so subtly that no non-Mauritanian will notice without direct comparison and so skillfully that folkies manque still hoping she's Oumou Sangare will keep listening to her praise of a God they don't believe in. Ultimately, they may even notice that in addition to commanding a hell of a voice, she leads a band that rocks harder than, for instance, Bombino's. A-