Xelcom (Self-released, 2008)
Senegal’s Youssoupha Sidibe has played his kora (21-stringed West African harp) alongside artists as varied as Matisyahu, Bela Fleck, India Arie and Midnite, but on this meditative release he’s put aside crossovers and dug deep into his African roots. Xelcom consists of six lengthy tracks on which the kora typically establishes a softly attention-grabbing tone before settling into swaying riffs joined by Sidibe’s hushed but from-the-gut singing and occasional percussion.
Each song is one of praise, specifically from a Sufi devotional perspective as practiced by the members of Baay Fall, a mystical Senegalese sect dedicated to farming, community service and ever-greater connection with the Creator. The virtues of love, goodness and work are extolled, and the medicinal way the music gets under your skin makes you believe that such qualities can indeed make a difference.
All the vocal and instrumental sounds heard here are those of Sidibe, who’s not looking to blow anyone away with his kora virtuosity though it’s clear he could do so. Rather, he’s made a stripped-down album of spiritual music close to his own heart and likely to create a stirring in yours. Heavenly.
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