N’famady Kouyaté’s new EP release Aros I Fi Yna is as close as you can come to absorbing uncut optimism and sunshine through your ears. Born in Guinea Conakry Kouyaté’s West African roots shine through and he has taken his Mandingue musical roots and filtered through the music he has picked up in his new home of Cardiff in Wales (this is released through the excellent Welsh label, Libertino Records). Kouyaté has toured with Gruff Rhys, who guests on this album along with Lisa Jên Brown from 9Bach and Kliph Scurlock ex-member of The Flaming Lips and on the EP you can hear his extraordinary ability on the Balafon, an African variation on the xylophone which uses gourds as resonators.
The four tracks on the EP are a myriad of sounds with brass stabs and horn lines, frenetic drums, syncopated bass-bounce, blistering guitar, kora runs and N’famady’s amazing voice swooping and soaring over the top, accompanied by some beautiful harmony backing vocals. This is music that cascades like bubbles floating across a fast-moving river. Whenever I hear African music, I can appreciate the obvious virtuosity, but it always takes a backseat to ensure the overall joy of the sound is what you experience. This is music that’s so compelling it acts like positive helium to lift your spirits and ensure your pituitary gland starts firing out many endorphins.
If you are a fan of artists such as Mory Kanté, Youssou N’Dour, Toumani Dianaté and Salif Keita then you will love this, but if you are unfamiliar with African music then this is an excellent opportunity to discover its delights on four dazzling tracks.
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Review by Paul F Cook