Oumou Sangare | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | International | Chicago Reader

Oumou Sangare Critic's Choice Free Recommended Soundboard

When: Thu., July 2, 8 p.m. 2009

The liner notes to Seya (World Circuit/Nonesuch), the extraordinary new album by Malian singer Oumou Sangare, credit more than four dozen musicians, but such is her power and magnetism that even the biggest, most elaborate arrangements register as little more than artful settings for her dazzling jewel of a voice. And despite dashes of Western pop flavor—electric bass and guitar, Hammond organ, plush horn and string sections—the songs retain a deep connection to Malian music in both their core instrumentation and their basic structures. Sangare is from Bamako, at the edge of the Wassoulou region of Mali, where the dominant form of music evolved from traditional hunter’s songs; the style has long been dominated by women, a rarity in Africa, and the content of its lyrics has changed to address contemporary social problems. Sangare has always pushed the envelope on that front, artfully confronting taboo topics like forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and doesn’t soften her tone on Seya. She’s even more effective onstage than on disc: nearly six feet tall even without her headdress, she can communicate both gravity and joy, outrage and sensuality, and she’s usually flanked by charismatic women whose singing and dancing redouble her exhortations. The seven-piece band she brings here is led by “Benogo” Brehima Diakite, a virtuoso on the kamele n’goni (literally “lute-harp for young people”) who’s been Sangare’s musical foil for nearly 20 years. —Peter Margasak

Add a review

Rating

Select a star to rate.