Kankou – Kuma

Album review | Cannery Row Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

Mali’s Kankou Kouyate and Scots producer Mark Mulholland join forces for this exceptionally rich and varied album, which seems to effortlessly span musical cultures. Kuma, which translates to ‘Words’, finds Kankou on fine form, the warmth and texture of her voice very much in focus, with some equally rich arrangements. Having met in Bamako in 2017, the two musicians have developed a working relationship which is full of empathy and innovation.

Hailing from a highly respected family of musicians steeped in the Griot and Jeli traditions, her father being Fousseyni Kouyate, brother of Bassekou Kouyate, Kankou manages to bring her own musical heritage into a fresh contemporary landscape with an almost Neil Young-like title track, a Sandy Denny-ish “Obadya” and a veritable rock workout on “Dimi”, complete with sneering heavy on the wah-wah guitar licks. Through it all though, it’s Kankou’s voice that leads us on the journey, which also features contributions from Olaf Hund on ‘electronics’ and Vincent Bucher on harmonica.

Choice Track: “Obadya” (NSV 490)