This is Samba Toure’s third album for Glitterbeat and while it is very different from his previous releases it is no less absorbing and fascinating. The thing that sets it aside from ‘Albala’ and ‘Gandiko’ is a remarkable sense of peace and confidence. The album was recorded in only two weeks with only first takes being used for Toure’s vocals and guitar and the result is music that is incredibly natural and without the overprocessing that ruins many excellent albums.
There is a strong groove running through the album, stunning rhythms that seem to emanate from the tama (talking drum). Toure says of it “We’ve always loved tama for it’s sounds, it’s the only drum that can play eight notes”.
I loved his earlier material for the intense jams between his guitar and ngoni but those aren’t part of this music – instead he focusses on short repetitive solos and allows the jam to happen around his central playing.
The rhythms and mood change from track to track but never really lose touch with the freshness and vitality that pervades the whole album and on tracks such as ‘Yerfara’ – ‘We Are Tired’ – he hits the go button to create a song that could almost be a field work song, albeit at a rhythm that would burn out field workers in minutes.
The title track (aka ‘The Beloved’) is a song to his wife, heartfelt and with a slow and steady rhythm – a heartbeat pace - sparks of fiddle and the best guitar work on the album. It seems to speak simply of love and adoration. Couple that with his ‘Tribute to Toumana Tereta’ – a memorial to Tereta who often collaborated with Toure on Souko – and whose work is encapsulated into a sample of his playing that repeats through the track and you have, probably the two best songs Toure has written.
The whole album speaks of a man who has found his path and whose life continues to develop but who is still exploring and thinking. A masterpiece and the best thing I’ve heard coming out of Mali this year.