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Musa Mboob & XamXam Musa Mboob & XamXam
Album: The Gambia Sessions
Label: ARC
Tracks: 10

Musa Mboob is a Gambian percussionist, singer and dancer now living on the south coast. Musa has worked with Africa Express, Alan Skidmore and Ubizo, Billy Bragg and Roger Watson among many others. THE GAMBIA SESSIONS, recorded in Serrekunda on the Gambian Coast with XamXam Musa’s band of English musicians with guests is a perfect example of the rich relationships across continents and hemispheres and a reminder that music flows ignores boarders. “Tumaranke” is an rhythmic delight, with those wonderful vocal choruses that first drew me to West African music via Songhai in the 1980’s. Musa’s percussion is infectious and sense without being showy. “Chossan” a song about cultural inheritance and remembering your roots has a visceral reggae beat with a ska like echoed Saxophone by Andy Pickett. The message is reflective Iand serious, but it is carried on a groove that makes you move. “Butum Belle” harks back to time in Africa Musa says, when to have a, big stomach meant you were rich and so well regarded. On both “Butum Belle and “Ndokiwo Ndoli” Luke Rattenbury conjours those sparkling shimmering notes on his guitar that are one of things so special and recognisable about modern electric African music from across the continent. “Yarabi” means peace, which explains the reflective and gospel aspect to Musa’s vocal on this superb slow song. Guitar and Saxophone lay down a languid jazzy atmospheric groove that just smacks of taking time to think. Like Malian singer and musician Issa ‘Techno’ Bagayogo, Musa Mboob and XamXam create a slippery organic electronic music that grows is international and universal. The track ends up in Miles Davis Silent Way territory with big Saxophone notes and electric piano. “Jahalnama” is furious and infectious with Musa’s words about the sorry state of the world riding over the top. “Jarindarey” continues the uptempo with a little more space in the call and response music. The song describes West African life is all about having the right papers and documents. Mboob’s distaste is emphasised by the stabs of percussion and keyboards this is righteous music. “Samina” and “Journey”, the final two tracks are labelled as bonus, earlier copyright date and a slightly brighter sound suggests a different session, or am I hearing difference where there isn’t one. Either way the same infectious percussion fizz, sparkling guitar and electronics deliver wonderful music. Percussion and Musa’s vocal on “Journey” are particularly fine.

Musa Mboob was a new name to me, but THE GAMBIA SESSIONS has been played a lot in this house and it’s still on now. Lovers of Manu Dibango’s brand of Saxophone and soupy beat driven music, swirling percussion of real fusion music and that languid reggae groove will find themselves right at home here.

Marc Higgins