BA CISSOKO | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

No, this Guinean kora player and vocalist can't clear the bar for sonic innovation set by Jimi Hendrix. That understood, the title Electric Griot Land (Totolo) gives you a pretty good idea about the contents of his bold second album. Cissoko's sound is grounded in the hypnotic, circular structures of ancient Mande songs, but the interlocking lines played on traditional instruments like kora, balafon, ngoni, calabash, and djembe are often run through guitar effects like wah-wah. Cissoko strays from tradition in other ways too: "Africa" takes on a reggae feel, and Toronto-based Somalian MC K'naan drops some rhymes on "Silani." Really, though, this music wouldn't sound terribly different minus those flourishes: it gets its ebullient snap from the heavy insinuation of the grooves and the tight ensemble work of the four-piece band, and Cissoko's strong, soulful singing and natural charisma give it its broad appeal. This is the group's Chicago debut. a 10 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15.

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