Oumou Sangare

Malian musician Oumou Sangare's amazing voice and songs that directly address the plight of women in a highly conservative society have made her a superstar in her native country, and the eight new tracks on Oumou will show you why. "Yala," which asks the youth to avoid the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol, would be a hit in any language with its funky horn stabs, a rhythmic pulse that combines traditional Wassoulou rhythms and European club beats, her wailing vocals, and back-up singers who echo both the Supremes and Mahotella Queens. Other strong numbers include "Maladon," a driving bit of Afro-pop with an unforgettable vocal hook, and "Laban," which blends Congolese guitar, Cuban percussion, and a string arrangement that wouldn't sound out of place on a Gamble and Huff production.

The rest of the eight numbers, culled from cassettes Sangare originally put out in 2003 for the local market, show an artist at the top of her form, stretching herself musically while remaining true to her roots. So why pad out Oumou with twelve tracks from her previous albums, all of which are available in the U.S.? Her fans would be better served with new music, especially if it's as powerful as these recently recorded songs suggest.


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