Personnel: Kandia Kouyate (vocals); Sekouba Bambino (vocals); Adama Cond‚ (guitar, balafon); Ousmane Kouyate (guitar); Alain Hatot (saxophone); Phillipe Slominski (trumpet); Jacques Bolognesi (trombone); Philip Guez (keyboards); Djanka Diabate, Hadja Maningbe, Amy Bamba (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Herv‚ Merignac.
Arrangers: Kandia Kouyate; Ousmane Kouyate.
Kandia Kouyate is the most famous female singer inside Mali, a female griot with a voice so powerful you're more likely to think of Salif Keita than Oumou Sangare. Although her recording career dates to the early '80s, Kita Kan is her first full-fledged solo CD -- the informative liner notes reveal how private patrons love her singing so much she has no financial need to record. Kouyate and producer Ibrahima Sylla kinda went the whole hog, too. The tracks are pretty evenly divided among those featuring a European string orchestra, an electric Euro-Afro-pop rock band, and others with the more traditional kora, balafon, and ngoni. All the arrangements basically revolve around cascading strings of some kind weaving a melodic bed underneath her commanding vocals. Kouyate is probably most at home on fully acoustic songs like "Douwawou," but her entrance on "Folilalou" makes you jump to attention and shows she's one of those singers who can dominate any setting she's placed in. That duet with Sekouba Bambino boasts the lulling, melodic flow of classic Malian music and "Kandali" is simplicity itself, with murmuring guitars reminiscent of the traditional songs on Keita's Soro before bright horns kick in to transform it into crisp Euro-Afro-pop. The European string tracks are trickier -- the majestic sweep doesn't draw attention away from Kouyate on "Mandenkalou," but it does oppressively blanket the rest of the arrangement. They're more sensitively used on "Woulale" and Kouyate sounds more comfortable singing with them, but while they fit well on "Hommage," they're a little overbearing again. The plucked strings sound a bit like balafon or kora, but the fully bowed violins put a damper on the acoustic bottom by filling up too much space too constantly. Kandia Kouyate is unquestionably a great singer whom anyone interested in Malian music and artists like Oumou Sangare should be aware of. But Kita Kan does suffer from trying to present Kouyate in so many musical settings at once -- not that she doesn't merit it, or can't handle it artistically, but the disc winds up too disjointed for its own good. ~ Don Snowden