Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili [Lamastrock, 2021]
A Burkina Faso native based in France and particularly Lyon for most of her adult life, Diarra submits her mission statement as yet another warming, rousing voice from an Africa where female singers become all too rare once the Muslim desert has morphed into the animist rain forest. Her French guitarist, Thierry Servien, leads with an irresistibly lyrical hook that's quickly augmented by multi-instrumentalist Mabouro "Smifa" Diarra (Kady's husband? nephew?), whose balafon generates throughout the album a synthlike resonance that could be electronic but never sounds "unnatural." Burkina Faso was led briefly in the '80s by visionary pan-Africanist Thomas Sankara, who was assassinated when Diarra was in her teens. By then she wasn't yet a singer by trade--she was a dancer who by the early '90s had earned a starring role in an African ballet troupe. Good for her if that troupe was half as engaging and universal as this album. But frankly, I doubt it. A-