Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-03-20


Fatoumata Diawara: Fatou (World Circuit, 2011) A Wassoulou speaker who was born in Côte d'Ivoire and raised in Mali before pursuing an acting career in France, the subtlest desert diva to date is softer and warmer than the not dissimilar Rokia Traoré. Coming down as it does on the sleepy side of the line between entrancing and lulling that's walked by so many world-music hopefuls, her subtlety isn't necessarily a plus, and those who'd prefer a safer, cheaper taste can opt for Nonesuch's download-only Kanou EP, which highlights three of her more distinguished songs. But as it happens, my two favorites--the livelier "Bakanoba" and the twistier "Boloko"--are on this Nick Gold-produced import. And I promise I only found out "Boloko" opposed female circumcision after I'd connected to the music. B+

The Lijadu Sisters: Mother Africa (Knitting Factory, 2012) There was apparently a Shanachie best-of I never heard back in '84, but in this heyday of obscurantist crate-digging, now the entire four-album catalogue of these beauteous second cousins of Fela and Wole Soyinka will be released over a one-year span. The debut was Danger and it's lame, English-language moralism further weakening wan attempts at the pop equanimity the Shirelles and lesser females achieved so sweetly so long before. On this follow-up, though, the sustaining grooves the title half-promises buoy gentle soprano harmonies attached to messages I know enough not to be curious about. Instead there are the thrumming pressure drums, the clarinet obbligato that could be a soprano sax obbligato, the guitar solo that could be a synth solo, the spoken praise of the moon delivered by multi-instrumental mastermind Biddy Wright. All of which, I suspect, could be readily accommodated by a new best-of that also isolated a keeper on Danger itself. B+

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