Volume 93, Issue 87
Wednesday, March 15, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
N'Dour comes through with sublime new effort
Joko: From Village To Town
Every now and then, a musician emerges with so rich a cultural and musical background that their lush, ranging sound promises no less than a universal appeal.
This is the case with West African-born Youssou N'Dour and his newest project, Joko: From Village To Town, which effortlessly transcends genres.
The Senegal native has been tagged as "the father of mbalax" an upbeat blend of African, Carribean and pop music styles. Performing since 1971 at the tender age of 12, he has made a career of experimenting with new sounds based on traditional urban rhythms.
In Joko, N'Dour continues his integration of musical genres. The album ranges from upbeat, percussion-heavy tracks like "Please Wait," to more haunting, melodic efforts like "This Dream." The latter track features world music enthusiast Peter Gabriel, whose 1986 hit album, So, first introduced N'Dour's vocals to the North American and British musical scenes.
N'Dour also teams up with popular hip-hop innovator Wyclef Jean, who produced several of N'Dour's tracks. He is featured on "How Come?" and "Birima Remix," flavouring the album with an R&B accent. "Don't Walk Away" is yet another example of major artists collaborating with N'Dour, as adult contemporary icon Sting subtly layers his distinctive echoings throughout this lyrical track.
Although the album often varies its pace and shifts musical genres, it never seems choppy or fickle. Rather, N'Dour's consistently soaring vocals and earnest, socially conscious lyrics grant Joko a fluidity and emotional intensity that is true to his musical roots.
At a time when so many world musicians try to capitalize on North American markets by featuring the beat-of-the-week, N'Dour's diverse sound and rich music is a welcome change.
Whether for relaxing, dancing, or soul searching, this album is well worth a listen.
The Dalai Lamas
Return to Funk Fu Alley
"In funk we trust." Coming from the Dalai Lamas, truer words have never been spoken.
In what is perhaps the epitome of modern funk, the Dalai Lamas first major release, Return to Funk Fu Alley is bringing back the old school days of Parliament and Curtis Mayfield with power, energy and most importantly, style.
Born five years ago on the open, airy plains of Saskatchewan, this six man outfit has slowly built a funk-obsessed following, playing numerous festivals and touring alongside the likes of The Philosopher Kings and The New Meanies. This ample fan base has allowed them to make an album that's "100% Lama produced" that is, not yet supported by a major record label giving them complete creative licence.
The entire album pulses with unadulterated funk. Combining jazz, rock, reggae and hip-hop, each track is loaded with foot tappin', head noddin' rhythm.
Reminiscent of the Commodores, the smooth vocals of Richard Kapronczai are simple, fun and intelligent. The musical skill of these six funksters is sure to secure their success past one-hit-wonder status.
Clocking in at just over an hour, The Dalai Lamas manage to mix up their style just enough to make the whole album enjoyable, but maintain a degree of consistency. "Black Belt" tells the tale of a groovy Shaft-like super hero and his woman. "One Mind" is a slower reggae-style track while "Funky Worm" is a sly hybrid of rap and '70s rock. Each song in itself is a solid tune which contributes to The Dalai Lamas' style as a whole.
All in all, Return to Funk Fu Alley is a great album which offers listeners a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale music scene. This is a record to toss in the stereo and groove to.
"Prepare to get Lama-nated."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000