Words by Nigel Williamson
After AfroCubism’s Grammy-winning Mali Cuba album, are we about to see a spate of similarly styled cash-ins? Well, no worries, if?they’re all as pleasing as A Curva Da Cintura (Mali-Brasil), which finds several of the Malian musicians from AfroCubism. It features Toumani Diabaté and balafon (xylophone) player Fode Lassana Diabaté, working with two of the biggest names in Brazilian rock music, singer-songwriter Arnaldo Antunes and guitarist Edgard Scandurra. The Brazilians arrived in Bamako to record with local musicians in April 2011 at Toumani’s invitation, after he’d met them at a festival in South America the previous year – and the music that resulted is a pure joy.
On AfroCubism the contributions of the two sides were carefully calibrated to ensure an equal balance; here it’s clearly the Brazilians who take the lead – compositionally at least – as they provide all but one of the 14 songs. The instrumental contribution of the Malians, however, is immense. Toumani’s kora (harp-lute) lends poise and elegance to ballads such as ‘Grao De Chaos’ and ‘Psiu’.
On the more upbeat, rock-inflected numbers, Toumani’s son Sidiki Diabaté takes over, meshing thrillingly with Scandurra’s electric guitar and even modulating his kora with wah-wah on ‘Ce Nao Vai Me Acompanhar’. ‘Ir Mao’ pits the raw sound of the single-stringed soku fiddle against blues slide guitar, while the one Toumani-composed track, ‘Kaira’, boasts a magical arrangement of weaving koras and guitars and a wonderful vocal duet between Antunes’ sombre bass and the high, keening Mande tones of Zoumana Tereta.