"Outstanding new album.”
Tony Hillier, Rhythms Magazine
The sweet success of Malagasy trio Toko Telo’s debut album Toy Raha Toy on its release last year turned sour when the band’s legendary accordion player, Régis Gizavo, passed away. Remaining members, guitar whiz D’Gary and soaring songstress Moniker Njava, who are among Madagascar’s most acclaimed musicians, decided the best way to honour their friend’s memory was by continuing the project. That decision accounts for Toko Telo’s swift return with an outstanding new album in Diavola and a dashing young replacement in Joël Rabesolo, who’s ranked among the best Malagasy guitarists of his generation.
The interlocking acoustic strings of the male maestros enthrall on a collection of excellent songs that, while contemporary, are rooted in the rich traditions of one of the world’s most intriguing island nations. On pieces such as the beautiful title track and on ‘Manoro’ and ‘Oka Niny’ the guitarists gel like an Indian Ocean version of the revered UK duo of John Renboum and Bert Jansch. Elsewhere, in songs such as ‘Zaza Somondrara’, Njava’s voice soars as guitar harmonics ring delicately behind. The diva’s shaker lends propulsion to the album’s sign-off track and sole instrumental, the jaunty ‘Ndreto Zahay’.
“Melodic songs with beautiful vocal harmonies and complex rhythms that invite you to dance.”
★ ★ ★ ★ Bas Springer, Lust For Life Magazine
Toko Telo from Madagascar brings together three top musicians from this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean: the formidable singer Monika Njava, master guitarist D’Gary, and the equally gifted guitarist Joël Rabesolo. The latter takes the place of the original member, accordionist Régis Gizavo, who unexpectedly died during a tour in 2017. To honor their deceased friend, the rest of the tour was finished by Njava and D’Gary.
Fortunately, the death of Gizavo didn’t mean the premature end of Toko Telo. The dexterous electric guitar playing of the new band member Rabesolo mixes naturally with that of D’Gary, whose impressive playing style is characterized by unusual open tunings. With her powerful, soulful voice, Njava connects these two stringed-instrument virtuosos, drawing inspiration from traditional music from Madagascar. It results in melodic songs with beautiful vocal harmonies and complex rhythms that invite you to dance.