Frederic Galliano

Frederic Galliano

Frederic Galliano and the African Divas

Pias America / F Communications

Oh, this is a tough one. First off, let me say that at its best moments this sounds like an absolute breakthrough in techno-Africa; French DJ Galliano spent four years traveling in Western Africa (on and off, y’know), meeting and collaborating with some of the region’s best and brightest singers, and some of it is absolutely sublime stuff. It is not, as you might expect, hard-house thumpthump with Muslimate vocals layered on top, but some really new directions in what can be considered “dance music.” Standouts are the industrial thump of “Niamien Kinkeling,” where Cisse Diamba Kanoute and Koko Ouadjah lend some humanity to the stark hesitant beat; the lite disco beat of “Koukou Le” which turns into the funk workout of “Woualai” which morphs into the harder funk of “Afo! Idon!”; and the high-lifin’ medly of “Koutiom” and “Alla Cassi Magni,” with stunning singing from (respectively) Naffi Diedhou and Hadja Kouyate.

But this is also a really frustrating album for a few reasons. It was originally released as a double CD, and my promo copy is only a single disc that shortens some songs drastically and leaves others out altogether; I know this is because we’re stupid Americans and we don’t buy anything having to do with either France or Africa, but it means we’re not getting the whole thing at all. Some of these pieces, like “Super Bougueur” and the set-closing “Bien Sofe De!” just seem truncated before their time, never really lifting off the way they should. And some of the remaining tracks, like the insanely long piano noodling of “Bko-Dkr,” don’t make as much sense on one cramped disc as they would on a full release.

These textures are too cool and interesting to absorb on the first few listens, and Galliano is clearly one of the big ones to watch on the global dance scene, but I think I can’t really recommend the one-disc release of the record, especially if you can get your hands on a two-disc version. Hey, it’s super cheap if you just click on the link above! Just don’t come crying to me if you end up with more questions than answers.

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