After six years of relentless touring, Malian guitarist Habib Koité's latest recording again draws upon his native roots. Opener "Namania," an ode to a dark-skinned girl who triggers Koité's memories of times gone by, perfectly syncs up the call-and-response vocals with Koité's fluent guitar. "Barra" is a percussion-rich tune with standout violin solos by the late Hassey Saré (Ali Farka Touré, Alef Bocoum). "Nta Dima" reflects on the Malian tradition of arranged marriages, with lyrics about a father refusing to give his daughter to a man unworthy of her — not a night watchman or anyone who doesn't know how to farm the land. Another strong moment is "Massake," with repeated loops that serve as a backdrop for Koité's amazing chops. Unlike Touré or Amadou & Mariam, Koité does not use electric guitars, relying instead on his steel-stringed acoustic, which he plays without many effects. Koité's sound on Afriki is as organic as it gets these days, making the album a musical gem that's worth discovering.
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