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Tchamantche by Rokia Traoré
Released: Aug 2008
Label: Nonesuch
"Tchamantche" means (roughly) "balance" in Bambara, and this delicate Malian songbird spends much of the album suspended -- between the musical traditions of Europe and Africa, between sound and the call of silence, between the delicacy of her voice and the earth rhythms of her home country. Just when the tension begins to feel too sculpted (Kate Bush comes to mind), she breaks the spell with the welcome rush of "Tounka." The magic returns, with a twist: If you're wondering just how Traore's impeccable phrasing sounds in English, she gives a miraculous reading of "The Man I Love."
Sarah Bardeen

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