“Lion City” the new Dirtmusic album, is culled from the same Bamako sessions as “Troubles” but offers a decidedly different atmosphere and ambiance. While the Ben Zabo band is still the core collaborator, the textures and tempos are slower and more opaque. Organics and electronics intertwine and unfold unpredictably. There are less guitars and more liquid sounds. The outward frustration and fear documented on the previous album has given way to something more insular and pensive. The echoing space between the notes is emphasized and subsequently so are the voices and the texts.
Samba Toure provides a vocal and lyric for “Red Dust” a song that enshrines the contemplative mood of the album. Over a swirling dub-scape he intones:
How can we reconcile and forgive?
How can we bring peace to those that hate us?
Yet we have no choice
We need to stop fighting
While Samba Toure, Ben Zabo and his band, and Aminata Wassidje Traore previously appeared on “Troubles”, “Lion City” also features an inspired team of new collaborators.
+Tamikrest members Ousmane Ag Mossa (guitar), Cheikhe Ag Tiglia (Bass) & Aghaly Ag Mohamedine (percussion) appear on the bluesy and meditative “Movin’ Careful.” This is the first time the two groups have collaborated since Dirtmusic’s BKO album from 2010.
+The iconic Takamba band Super 11, from northern Mali, exchange thorn-like trance sounds with Hugo and Chris on the album’s opening number “Stars of Gao.”
+MC Jazz, an up and coming Bamako Hip Hop artist adds a fiery incantation
to the mostly instrumental “Day the Grid Went Down.”
+Ibrahima Douf, a young singer from Senegal, provides a stunning vocal on the album’s final track “September 12.” The song is an ode to his grandmother.
The 21st century claims to be borderless. A world of hyper-communication and instant nostalgia that is both celebrated and feared. On “Lion City” Dirtmusic stayed clear of such theorizing and just got on with the practice. The collective joy they found in making this music is what mattered most.