Internationally known singer-songwriter Daby Toure released his latest full-length studio recording late last month. The album, Amonafi, means “once upon a time” in the West African language Wolof. It is a fitting title for his new solo album, his fifth. That is because throughout the course of the album’s thirteen songs ,Toure does more than just write songs. He crafts musical tales that will keep every listener engaged. That is just one part of what makes this record such an interesting listen for everyone. The variety of sounds exhibited throughout the course of the record adds to the interest established through the songs’ lyrical content. The lyrical and musical content together go a long way toward making Amonafi a record well worth the listen. By themselves they can only do so much, though. The album’s companion booklet brings everything together. That is because while Toure sings each song wholly in an appparent mix of French and Wolof, there is a translated explanation behind each song. This is right along the same lines as an opera’s program explaining each scene of said production for those that don’t speak a foreign language. It helps give each song a clearer context and leads to a deeper appreciation for each song in whole and in turn a deeper appreciation for Toure’s new album in whole. That overall appreciation will lead to the realization that this record is one more that any critic should have on his or her list of the year’s best new World Music albums.
Daby Toure’s fourth full-length studio recording is a collection of songs that regardless of listeners’ familiarity with his body of work, or their native language, every listener will enjoy. That is because it is one of those rare records that makes a real effort to take the road less travelled from the album’s outset. That is most evident in the album’s lyrical content. The lyrical content presented throughout the course of Amonafi’s thirteen goes a long way toward making the record live up to its title. The songs are not just the typical three to five minute pieces that one would expect to hear from so many mainstream compositions. Case in point the album’s opener ‘Woyoyoye.’ As Toure notes in the album’s liner notes of the song, it is a work about a beautiful woman that every man in her village admires. One of those men, an unnamed admirer, describes every detail of the woman as she makes her way through the village. There’s no romance per se here. It is almost the type of thing one might see and hear in a fairy tale–a beautiful woman strolling through town, being admired by all of the men and envied by the women. The music accompanying the story, which will be discussed shortly, serves greatly to illustrate the story even for those that might not speak French or Wolof. Getting back on track, the story presented here is just one of the songs featured in the body of Amonafi that helps the album live up to its name. The album’s title track, which centers on the beginnings of the slave trade, is another example of how the album’s songs make it such a solid collection. Toure doesn’t attempt to be preachy in his lyrical approach to this song. That is obvious in his delivery of his song. But he definitely succeeds in touching listeners emotionally. Just as interesting to take in are Toure’s introspective ruminations about days gone by in ‘Kille.’ He writes in this song from the vantage of a person fondly remembering those better, simpler times. As with the previously noted songs and those not noted, Toure’s delivery of the song’s lyrical content makes interpetation simple enough that listeners don’t have to necessarily know the language in which the song is sung. His delivery clearly translates the song’s emotion. And together with the explanation provided by Toure ahead of the songs, the pairing of both elements makes it (and the album’s other songs) that much more enjoyable. The enjoyment provided by the Amonafi’s lyrical content is just one part of what makes this record such an interesting and enjoyable collection of compositions. The musical content within each song adds even more to the album’s enjoyment. Together with the songs’ lyrical content, both songs will have keep any listener engaged. This includes both those that speak Wolof and French and those that are less familiar with either language.
The musical content presented throughout the course of Amonafi’s forty minute run time couples with the album’s lyrical content to form thirteen songs that are sure to keep listeners engaged from beginning to end. This is the case both for those that are more familiar with Wolof and French and for those that are fluent only in English. That is because Toure pays close attention to each song in regards to its musical content. He makes it clear with the album’s musical content that he wanted to be able to translate his songs as thoroughly as possible regardless of listeners’ fluency with given languages. The light, airy sound of ‘Woyoyoye,’ the album’s opener is a prime example of this. It is a fun, almost bouncy sound for lack of better wording that expertly paints the picture of the young woman of whom her admirer sings. It just as impressively exhibits the townspeople admiring her as she makes her way through her village. This is truly interesting because it shows Toure’s ability to paint a picture just as much with music as with words. Even if he had stuck solely with the music and just given the introduction to the song that is in the album’s booklet, those two elements alone would have given the song just as much of an impact on listeners. In ‘Amonafi,’ the album’s title track, that expert attention to detail is exhibited just as clearly. Listeners will note first of the song that it was composed in a minor key. This within itself sets a certain emotional tone that will catch listeners’ ears. The urgency in the song’s seeming 3/4 tempo alongside the cong’s overall arrangement (including its minor key presentation) helps to drive home the story of the African people being kidnapped, ripped if one will, from their homeland. He makes that transition from their happy freedom to enslavement clear throughout the course of the song’s progression. And as with the album’s opener, that understanding coupled with the song’s English introduction serve together to paint yet another picture that is just as hard-hitting without lyrics as it is with them. As if that wasn’t enough example of the power of the album’s musical content, the musical content presented in ‘Kille’ serves as just as much of an example of that power. It isn’t necessarily a full-on celebratory sound. But Toure and company do present a solid, upbeat sound that clearly expresses the positive emotions felt by someone recalling happy memories. The use of traditional African instruments partnered with western instruments paints a bright, happy picture that might even leave listeners remembering their own share of happy memories. It is that powerful, emotionally. And that’s a good thing. Whether through the songs noted here, or through any of the album’s other compositions Amonafi’s musical content shows once again just why the album’s musical content is just as important to its enjoyment as that of its lyrics. Both elements together prove even more why Amonafi is deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new world music albums.
Both the musical and lyrical content presented throughout the course of Amonafi play their own pivotal roles in the album’s general effect. The general effect, in case it wasn’t already clear, is quite positive. While both noted elements are equally important to that positive effect, the inclusion of the songs’ English translated introductions plays just as much of a role as those previously noted elements. That is because without said introductions, any understanding (and in turn appreciation) of the songs would go right out the window. There are no English translations included for the songs’ lyrics included in the album’s companion booklet. So having the English-translated introductions to each song essentially tells the story (again reference to the album’s title) of each song for audiences that might only speak English and in turn means more ability to reach said audiences. It is the final touch on an album that together with its musical paintings and original stories is a record that is one of the year’s most best new, original world music offerings.
Amonafi is one of this year’s best new world music offerings. That is thanks in large part to its collection of original stories, which in and of themselves serve to help this record live up to its title. The musical content presented within each of the album’s songs adds even more enjoyment as it shows together with the English-translated introductions that these songs can be just as enjoyable solely as musical compositions as full musical and lyrical presentations. Speaking of those English-translated introductions, they are the album’s finishing touch. They are the very foundation of each of the album’s songs especially for Toure’s English-speaking audiences. Together with the songs’ musical content and the original stories presented throughout the album, all three elements serve to show Amonafi as one of this year’s best new world music offerings. Amonafi is available now in stores and online, and can be ordered direct via Toure’s official website at http://www.dabytoure.com. More information on Amonafi is available online now at:
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