The ‘Jr’ is important here in order to avoid confusion with Kerfala's more famous older brother, who was also confusingly named Kerfala Kanté and died in 2019 after a career playing balafon with Balla et ses Balladins and on a string of solo albums. Born in Conakry in 1980, the younger brother, who once played in Salif Keita's band and then in the Afro-techno band Spacewalk, is a bass player and singer. Jokoto is his second solo album, following 2013's Aventurier, which he recorded in Salif's studio. This time the ten songs were recorded as ‘live’ in Bamako with Kerfala's smooth but energetic voice and propulsive bass playing supported by Jely Mori Diawara and MC Spacewalk's guitars, as well as the ngoni of Badjé Niaré, Charles Coulibaly on keyboards and a trio of percussionists.
Because it was recorded almost entirely without overdubs the sound is pleasingly sparse and avoids the over-saturation of so many modern studio productions, each instrument given plenty of space. The style is a high-octane fusion of traditional Mande music and popular contemporary styles with the ngoni-heavy ‘Allah Tanto’ and the lilting Afro-pop ballad ‘M’Bourema’ with its classic call-and-response vocals among the standout tracks.
Author: Nigel Williamson,