the trend for brash West African desert rock and blues (Tinariwen and their ilk), this solo debut from Senegal’s Tidiane Thiam offers an altogether gentler kind of guitar music from the region. The album’s title translates as “Remember," most apt given that many of the melodies here can be traced back as far as the 11th Century. Thiam, who is a photographer, visual artist and folklorist as well as a guitarist, is eager to keep alive the traditional sounds of Northern Senegal.
Recorded in his riverside hometown of Podor, the country's northern-most outpost (the last stop before Mauritania) Siftorde shows how simplest is sometimes best. Producers Christopher Kirkley and Karen Antunes used just a single microphone to capture Thiam live and solo, out in the open. Just one man strumming his guitar to the accompaniment of a chorus of chirping crickets. There is a sense of space here. A looseness that belies the unfussy virtuosity of Thiam’s playing. He’s taking tunes traditionally performed on the four-stringed hoddu (the local variation on a lute) improvising round them in a spiralling style both laid back and percussive.
This is a short album, clocking in at under 35 minutes. Making it a rarity in these days of bloated running times by leaving the listener wanting more. Yet I find myself getting lost in the contemplative music here. Often going back and listening to the album over again when it’s finished. Each of the 10 tracks are distinctive, but this album is best appreciated as a whole: unified by a distinctive mood. A small-hours magic, that seeps in to the subconscious, in a way that other, more bombastic recordings rarely do.
Thiam pays tribute to a fellow West African maestro on ‘Hommage A Toumani Diabate’ and I imagine fans of the Malian kora master’s solo recordings will find much to like here. But I can see the appeal of this album stretching beyond hardcore West African music lovers. Fans of UK and US solo folk should give this dreamy introduction to an underrepresented musical world a try too. - Jamie Renton
Djessou Mory Kanté
Guitara Gasy (Guitars of Madagascar)