The Participant Observer Music CD of the Month is M'Bemba by Salif Keita.
M'Bemba translates to "grandfather" and this perhaps reflects the artist being at a peak of maturity, suspended between two generations, old enough to know exactly who he is and young enough to do something about it. Certainly, Keita has been demonstrably experiencing a mid-life renaissance, turning out such consistently masterly work that even longtime listeners are left scrambling for superlatives. Here, he has achieved yet another peak of invention while his celebrated tenor voice has never sounded more fluid and magical. The largely acoustic back-up players are also well worth noting; guitarists Ousmane Kouyate and Kante Manfila sit in on several tracks, joining respected pros like Mino Cinelu on percussion, bassist Michel Alibo and the great Toumani Diabate on kora (West African harp.) Keita also sings with a chorale of his own sisters on the title track. Highlights would include the sprightly, syncopated "Calculer" and "Tu Vas Me Manquer", a wistful ballad. On the down side, the reverb on "Laban" is a bit high and Buju Banton's guest turn on "Ladji" seems like an afterthought but these are extremely minor cavils. The legions of Keita's fans who so enjoyed his Grammy-nominated Moffou should hasten to acquire this magnificent following—Christina Roden
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