CD: Cheikh Lo, Lamp Fall

(World Circuit)

Whatever happened to Cheikh Lo? Even by Senegalese standards, he is an outstanding singer, and that's no mean achievement in the land of Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal. In the late 1990s he recorded a couple of albums that showed off his versatile, soulful vocals and ability to mix African styles with anything from Cuban influences to American funk; it seemed he would become a major star. Instead, he disappeared from view. Now there's a new album: it's a wildly varied, if uneven, set with some impressive moments.

The title track, a tribute to the Islamic sect he follows, is a jangling Afro-funk workout driven by saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis. There are fine, soaring vocals on the angry Kelle Magni, and an entertaining revival of 1970s Congolese rumba. Then there are influences from Cuba and Jamaica - though the bursts of chanting and drumming from Brazil are an excursion too far. With a voice this good, Cheikh Lo should concentrate on finding the right songs, not overelaborate settings.


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

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