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CD album and download out on June 28, 2010


Released on World Village (UK Distribution: Harmonia Mundi)








A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Senegal’s latest musical export, singer/songwriter and equally fine guitarist Carlou D whose mentor, Youssou  N’ Dour sings with him on one of the tracks of his debut solo album, Muzikr sprang from the bustling hip-hop scene of his native land in the 1990s. A fervent member of the Baay Fall sect who follow Cheikh Ibra Fall as their spiritual guide, Sufi Islamic chants or zikr are a big influence on D’s music, especially as Sufi, or Senegalese Islam places music at its centre. As such, D was introduced to music as a child and went on to join Senegal’s first and perhaps most successful hip-hop band, Positive Black Soul at sixteen. In 2004 he began a solo career which has seen him speaking out, through his music, on all manner of social and political injustice, as he does so artfully today.

Although this album is a mixed collection of tracks, most shine enough to inspire confidence that Carlou D is sure to be viewed as one of the brightest additions to Senegal’s long line of musical stars.  Those who’ve heard Muzikr are sure to be watching and listening in on D’s musical journey.

The first track, ‘Sam Fall’ is one of those songs which, almost seems subliminal, but that impression is perhaps, initially down to its beguiling fusion of vocals and guitar, twanging just enough to stand out against its’ singing. Like its accompaniment, Carlou D’s voice is warmly atmospheric, making me wonder about the subject matter of the song. Following through, I learned that this is a Sufi Muslim prayer, one performed with feeling and a sense of the continuity of man’s never-ending queries.

The intricate string fingered opening of ‘Fima Diar’, lends it an exotic appeal for Western ears, while in another moment, D’s soulful singing reminds one of 1960’s far-flung influences like Motown. Beautifully executed guitar which seems to talk as an African drum might, and rhythmic backing vocals lend an extra dose of sunny Senegalese soul.

A beautifully percussive liquidity sparks ‘Nanioul’ into fervent life while brightly funky Fela Kutiesque horns lighten any potential shadows. Rapidly tapped drums complete the scenario, capped with D’s ardent vocals which, seem to move along in synch with the song’s vibrant galloping beats.

On ‘Sen Regal’ lovely, light percussives and guitar set against joyous sounding vocal refrains suggesting celebration ease one into dancing.  However, that celebratory feeling is no doubt, meant to be illusionary, as in reality, the song is about the ‘greed, hypocrisy and jealousy in Senegalese society.’ Something about this song seems familiar from the outset, but that is no doubt due to its joyously-fused music and vocals and the excitement and sense of well-being that creates.

‘Yaay Fall’ sounds like a song Jose Feliciano might be at home with, as it is gently smooth, while being richly melodic. D’s expressive voice reaches in this track, sometimes talk singing its lyrics, which have a hooking, repetitive phrasing, and another, less pleasing, more pop flavoured wording in conclusion, which probably has much more meaning than its’ light-hearted phrasing suggests.

‘Goree’ features D’s mentor, Youssou N’ Dour and it is a track which seems worthy of both singers with its’ temptingly sing along phrases and strong musical backing lines. N’Dour’s input is nothing short of persuasive. Was it really so long ago that a shy young N’ Dour graced the stage of Chestnut Cabaret in Philadelphia in long white robes? His leonine performance at WOMAD Charlton Park last year displayed the many reasons why he is now, a mentor to many a musician... Carlou D included. The strong lines of this track are apt, as it centres on the slave trade and the role Africans played in it, though that is not apparent given language barriers, due to its deceptively beautiful piano trim.

Track seven ‘Ila Touba’ brings us up to more infectiously speedy ground, with peppering percussives driving the beats behind D’s confident vocals. A number of men shouting ‘yay’ in answer to D’s sung query made me wonder what the question in this song might have been. This seems the most anthemic of this album’s tracks, as I could picture D performing it on a festival stage to a rapt crowd.

‘Namenala’, written for his mother, who passed away when he was twenty, finds Carlou D in a more pensive mood, with no accompaniment, apart from the delicate fingering of a stringed instrument, likely, his own guitar and by the sound of it, that of another as well.  This song is a personal favourite as D’s deeply heartfelt vocals on it are so beautifully in synch with its mood and instrumentation.

On ‘Meun Nako Def’ horns punctuated the relaxed aftermath of ‘Namenala’ just as surely as a pin might a balloon, not sharp horns, but rather mellow, strolling down deserted streets at night ones, with a slightly detached perspective, while D sings of being ‘poor’ because ‘somebody gotta do it.’

The most ‘Fela’ (man, not musical) inspired track in this collection is ‘Yaaboyo’ and its’ well fused call and response singing and fired, percolating music should, potentially have a very broad appeal for fans of African music. And isn’t that just about everybody these days? In my considered estimation, the fact that my bleached blond, white, blaring about being British neighbour immediately reacted to it, mimicking it in her mutton dressed as lamb accent bodes very well for its future success.

‘Dieureudieufe Modou’ makes an excellent closing track for this collection, as it showcases the vibrancy of D’s vocals in conjunction with some fine drumming. The group singing in the background seems to add a sense of the urgency for world unity, starting with Africa itself and spreading outwards. It’s a nice touch that D sings one of all the verses in English, then switches back to his native tongue for the next verse, a wise decision as it will hopefully inspire those inclined to think of the differences in our languages as just that, simple differences, meant to be appreciated rather than seen as divides.  Its’ ardently sung, very alive sounding expressiveness helps to mark this track out as a genuine gem, which D will no doubt be asked to sing at concerts for years to come.

Is it too late for Carlou D to be added to the bill at WOMAD Charlton Park this year? I hope not!




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