Oumou Sangare – Timbuktu (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 41:57 minutes | 472 MB | Genre: World, African
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © World Circuit
Sangare’ is renowned worldwide for her vibrant and powerful music, which often features revolutionary messages about women’s rights, tradition and poverty. In her 30 year career she has won numerous awards, counts among her many notable fans Alicia Keys and Beyoncé (who sampled the classic ‘Diaraby Nene’ for her 2019 Lion King release), and, for her tireless work on social progress and cultural development holds the prestigious titles of Goodwill Ambassador to the UN’s Food & Agriculture organisation, Commander of the National Order of Mali and Chevalier of Culture in France.
“Music is within me,” Oumou affirms. “Without it, I’m nothing, and nothing can take it away from me! I’ve put my life into this record, my whole life – this life in which I’ve known hunger, the humiliation of poverty and fear, and from which today, I draw glory.”
‘Timbuktu’ is a stunning collection of songs, fusing her distinctive Malian sound and voice with elements of blues, folk and rock – resulting in a timeless body of work, free from borders and genres. Written and recorded in the US during coronavirus lockdowns, the album is the latest chapter in an unparalleled musical epic which has seen an artist born in the poorest districts of Bamako, Mali, become the greatest and most influential African singer alive, as well as a powerful feminist icon. Between the hometown pride exhibited in ‘Wassulu Don’, the quiet introspection of ‘Degui N’Kelena’, the amorous languor expressed on ‘Kanou’, the compassion in ‘Demissimw’ and the sadness and frustration in ‘Kêlê Magni’, many emotions nourish this record, with common threads of courage and optimism woven throughout. With ‘Timbuktu’, Oumou Sangaré demonstrates her endless talent, her passion and her wisdom, shining a light and leading the way for the world, through pain and strife, towards resilience, positivity and hope.
“This album is a tapestry of sound, a warp of the traditional Wassoulou rhythms and a weft of the roots of the blues from the Dobro to the slide guitar played by Pascal Danaë. However these passionate and impressionistic pieces affect you, there is no denying that the core of their strength lies in Oumou Sangaré’s powerful voice, both as a writer and singer and as a proponent of women’s rights. This will be a regular on my player for a long time.” (Richard Hollingum, folkradio.co.uk)
Timbuktu is Oumou Sangaré’s ninth album in a 30-year career which has seen the Malian singer become not only musical royalty at home and in Western “world music” (not our term) circles, but also a UN goodwill ambassador, a charity head, a hotelier in her native Bamako, and even a car developer. When the pandemic stranded her in Baltimore in mid-2020, however, the 54-year-old was able to shut out her extra-curricular duties and concentrate purely on music-making for the first time since she was a teenager, and the 11 songs here are the fruits of that focus.
Those hoping these conditions might produce a masterpiece, however, may be disappointed with Timbuktu – instead, they’ve fostered a record that’s undeniably well written, played and produced, but also frustratingly inward-looking and samey, in terms of both themes and presentation. No album, for example, needs two separate songs in which the singer implores herself, in the third person, to ignore the haters (‘Sarama’’s lyric, that translates as “Instead of being jealous of someone who is predestined, blessed and lucky, you should make friends with them / Don’t be jealous of Oumou Sangaré, she hasn’t done anything wrong to you” the most egregious example), and while there’s a degree of stylistic variety across the record’s 42 minutes, the vast majority adopts a mid-pace melancholia that is certainly heartfelt, and at times quite affecting, but also, at length, rather deflating.
When Sangaré offers respite from the formula, though, things look up: opener ‘Wassulu Don’ has oodles of kosmische groove and loosely undulating pulse, and highlight ‘Kêlê Magni’, all thumping techno texture below a terrific buzzsawing lead line, is Sangaré’s defiant response to the awful civil war in Mali’s north, a genuinely forward-looking piece of music that could easily double in length. An entire album that leant into that side of Sangaré’s personality, full of defiance and musical cross-pollination, would have been challenging, urgent and exciting. Instead, Timbuktu ends up, like so much of the West African music that manages to penetrate the Western mainstream, resembling tasteful, non-threatening coffee table exotica. For someone with as much to say as Sangaré, that represents an opportunity missed.
1. Oumou Sangare – Wassulu Don (03:38)
2. Oumou Sangare – Sira (02:57)
3. Oumou Sangare – Degui N’Kelena (03:54)
4. Oumou Sangare – Gniani Sara (03:43)
5. Oumou Sangare – Timbuktu (03:42)
6. Oumou Sangare – Sarama (03:38)
7. Oumou Sangare – Kanou (04:00)
8. Oumou Sangare – Demissimw (04:27)
9. Oumou Sangare – Kêlê Magni (03:35)
10. Oumou Sangare – Dily Oumou (04:32)
11. Oumou Sangare – Sabou Dogoné (03:46)