(Note: This post has been updated with information about the original version of the song)
The current round of the consistently crazy cool, crazy ambitious project Africa Express comes to fruition in the wider world today with the release of the full-length, “Maison Des Jeunes.” APWW devotees rest assured that our review is on its way, but first we wanted to take a minute and talk about the live video for the AE version of Salif Keita and Cesaria Evora’s classic love song, “Yamore.”
OkayAfrica posted this video this morning and referred to it as a “stripped down” version of the Damon Albarn produced track. Stripped down it might be, but here’s hoping that the studio version is not much more built out than this live take. Albarn is an inventive and adventurous producer who has fashioned some very beautiful, very detailed pop bangers in his time, but listening to this recording, it’s hard to imagine that the song would need anything more than it’s already working with here.
To start: this is a recording of an incredibly gifted young talent (Kankou Kouyaté, niece of ngoni-maestro/APWW favorite Bassekou Kouyate) performing alongside some of the most talented ngoni players around (Gambari, an ensemble almost entirely comprised of Kouyatés!). It doesn’t hurt that the song is well crafted as well. “Yamore” begins by offering up something like an instrumental mission statement, with instruments gradually entering until the full groove comes to the foreground. With what seems like an absolute minimum of moving pieces, this song and these performers have created a coolly impassioned and measured work of beauty. You can hear the big beat and the even bigger bass line that this song would have been given if it were produced more in line with the contemporary electric Malian sound, and maybe you’re like us and you’re thankful for the breath of fresh air that this stripped down recording offers up. Regardless of the fully produced track’s impact, this version has nailed a restrained elegance and quiet power that is breathtakingly its own.