selection by Chris Nickson, july 10
This second album (but first US release) from the senegalese singer-songwriter El Hadj N’Diaye might be stark, but it’s certainly powerfull. From the opening title track, where electric guitar and bass add thick swathes of color, to the percussion-powered “ Casa Di Mansa ”, where N’Diaye lets loose a keening griot wail the equal of Youssou N’dour, the effect is thrilling. Although he sings in wolof, there’s still a lulling beauty to the acoustic “ Xale bi ”, and a yearning to “ Kaki ” that trascends language. Morever, guitar and voice form the core of the sound, and subtle layers of percussion keep a strong West African root to the sound. On the stregth of Xel, N’Diaye crashes straight into the top division of African performers.