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Baaba Maal – Live At The Royal Festival Hall

These four tracks range from 8:18 – 11:48 long, so this is more like four excursions into beauty than a concert. I’m in love.

Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenberg – Johannesburg

I snagged this 5-song EP because it was cheap, because I like the first two Mumford records, and because I love Baaba Maal’s work. I was intrigued by the promise of this release!

All deference to Beatenberg and The Very Best, but they were new to me with this release.

For the purposes of avoiding typing names over and over again in certain spots, I’ll use this key for the artists involved in each track:

1 Baaba Maal
2 Beatenberg
3 The Very Best

There Will Be Time (1) starts off with Maal and Mumford trading verses, then the song achieves lift-off. It’s an amazing hybrid between that Mumford Sound and those sweet African influences. Not two approaches that I would have credited working well together, but here it is natural and seamless. Yes!

Wona (1, 2, 3), is bouncy, beautiful world music fun, with a half-time chorus bit. I could listen to this all day, even the parts that sound a bit too much like the Lion King theme.

Fool You’ve Landed (2,3) starts with some tribal drum sounds and breaks into a fairly straight-up pop song. It’s damn catchy and happy-making, and features excellent playing by the band(s).

Ngamila (1,3) is a dreamy pop tune that drifts along pleasantly, with a haunting guitar line underscoring the amazing vocals. It builds and builds but never falls apart.

Si Tu Veux (1,3) lets those sultry vocals carry us into a truly mesmerizing beat with those synths hanging behind it all, and then it shifts and crashes in on the build and it hits ecstatic emotion and catharsis. This may be the best track here!

In Sum:

This EP has atmosphere, that overriding feeling that no matter what else is going on in the world, no matter our differences or where we’re from, music will give us a bond that cannot be shaken. Every player here nails it, and even switching between languages wasn’t distracting at all. I came away feeling like this was a completely, beautifully realized project.

I wish this was a full-length album. Full marks.

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