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Written in fRoots issue 365, Nov 2013


Kakafon KAKACD014 (2013)

The path between Swedish polska and Senegalese kora griot music was first blazed by fiddler Ellika Frisell and Casamance’s Solo Cissokho, their BBC World Music Award winning duo now expanded to a trio with Mexican percussionist Rafael Sida Huizar for the new CD Now.
     The surprisingly effective blending of traditions is spreading. Long-lived sax and flutes-fronted polska-jazz-Afro band Den Fule toured Senegal with Solo Cissokho and his sister Adama a year or so ago, then brought the project to Sweden for shows and recorded Contrebande.
     It’s titled as a Den Fule album, but it should really be ‘Den Fule And Solo Cissokho’ since each of the tracks intertwines a composition by Solo with one by either Den Fule’s (and Groupa’s) Jonas Simonson or famous Norwegian fiddler Hans W. Brimi (1917-1998), and Solo sings or plays kora, or usually both, on all of them, with Adama joining for one.
     The result is remarkably natural, touches of polska and halling melodies and rhythms gleaming out from what overall has a warm, rolling Senegalese feel. These are all flexible and very experienced musicians, with no-one trying to imitate the others’ music, just responding to it and making it a single band rather than band-plus-guest.
     Den Fule’s line-up – Jonas Simonson on flutes, saxist Sten Källman, guitarist Henrik Cederblom, bassist Stefan Bergman and drummer Christian Jormin - hasn’t changed apart from that, as on their 2010 third album Halling I Köket which came after a 16-year break, they no longer have a singer or fiddler. Ellika Frisell and Ola Bäckström were its fiddlers in the 1990s; here guest fiddler Erika Risinger plays on a couple of tracks.
     The final track has Canadian poet Sofia Baig speaking in English over a slow kora groove that’s musically fine, reminiscent of Alagi M’Bye and Knut Reiersrud’s Jarabe on the latter’s Tramp album, but her first-person poem Lame And Mute, while laudable in intent – a Muslim speaking about fear – is an addition that doesn’t really reach out and seize the ears with its meaning, on early listens at least.


© 2013 Andrew Cronshaw

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