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Dallam-Dougou
"New Destiny"
(JMB 0003)

The premier CD of Dallam-Dougou is called New Destiny, and it covers a lot of ground. This is world dance music, ranging from the proudly joyous track "Oy yoy yoy" to Transylvanian party rhythms to a soulful mid-tempo West Africa groove with a baroque Courante twist on "JSB Meets Mande Jeli."

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Most of the nine tracks are original compositions by bandleader Raul Rothblatt, but the border between purely traditional and boldly original ends up being irrelevant.

The first few seconds of the CD introduce all the elements to come: an energetic Hungarian Gypsy riff lays the groundwork for the rest of the rhythm, and it is quickly joined by acoustic bass and drums. Then comes a clarinet solo that is wild but never loses the sense of dance. Then comes a balafon (the West African ancestor of the xylophone) which leads the group the main melody and is lyrical, and not afraid to meander. But this is only one way to listen to this. You could focus on the ethnographic elements, and marvel in the fact that the tune is a Guinean and jazz interpretation of a rhythm inspired by the Hungarian Roma (a.k.a. Gypsy) band from Szazcsavasz in Transylvania who are interpreting a Turkish rhythm. Or maybe you just like the vibe.

The second track is a traditional Romanian suite from Transylvania. The mood is slow and elegiac with an expressive alto sax solo over an enveloping string foundation. After luxuriating in the slow section, the piece moves to a faster dance rhythm called an învîrtitâ, in a bouncy 7/8ish beat. This is the only track that is traditional in both its melody and arrangement, and like much of the music from this region, there are no drums so the rhythmic drive comes from the bass instrument. "The Romanian Învîrtitâ is my favorite rhythm," explains Raul, "and it took restraint to have only one on this CD."

The title track honors the Kouyate family-the most prestigious of the musicians/historians known as griots who have made West Africa famous for its stunningly beautiful music. A griot melody is the basis for a vocal improvisation by Abdoulaye Diabate from Mali, but the arrangement is completely original using a lush, driving string-based sound. He sings in the Malinke language about the trip that Raul Rothblatt and Abou Sylla made to the Sosso Bala, the oldest xylophone in the world. This 13th-century instrument was once owned by Sundiata, the greatest emperor in West African history, and the Kouyate family has preserving it and playing it for the last 800 years. Seeing this instrument made a great impression on Raul, and it reaffirmed his belief that even though so many cultures are being threatened, we can take control of our future if we preserve the past.

Part of the profits of the CD go to the Kouyate family and to Niagassola, the impoverished village in Guinea housing the Sosso Bala.

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Dallam-Dougou: New Destiny

Listen to Free Audio Clips:

1) Mahala á La Mandingo (listen)
2) Romanian Suite (listen)
3) Balushari (listen)
4) Prelude (listen)
5) New Destiny (listen)
6) Union Suite (listen)
7) JSB Meets Mande Jeli (listen)
8) Ludlow Lush Life (listen)
9) On My Way (oy Yoy Yoy) (listen)

 

 

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