Musician/composer Anansy Cisse spent the better part of the past three years working on his latest album, Anoura (The Light) and now after almost not even happening, the 10-song record – his second – will finally see the light of day this week. Set for release Friday through World Music Network, the 45-minute album is a presentation that will appeal equally to World Music fans and to those of the blues. That is due to the musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The album’s companion booklet is directly connected with the record’s featured arrangements and the appreciation thereof. It will be discussed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too. When that item is considered along with the rest of the album’s booklet and its arrangements, the presentation in whole proves itself to be an interesting addition to this year’s field of new World Music records.
Anansy Cisse’s new album Anoura (The Light) is a presentation that many audiences will find interesting. That is due in part to the album’s featured musical arrangements. In some cases, the arrangements blend elements of the blues with the more traditional sounds of Cisse’s home nation of Mali for a unique sound. At other points, those elements are held to their own songs, making for even more engagement and entertainment. Among the most notable of the arrangements that blends east and west is ‘Foussa Foussa.’ According to information provided in the album’s booklet, which again will be discussed later, the song finds Cisse imagining talking to his daughter about the festivities that he enjoyed when he was a child. The blues side of the song lends itself to the best works of artists, such as John Lee Hooker and Bo Didley. The African/Malian side meanwhile gives listeners a light introduction to some of the instruments and sounds of Cisse’s homeland. The balance in the two sides as they combine ensures listeners will remain engaged and entertained. ‘Talka,’ which comes later in the album’s run, is centered on the soku – for those unfamiliar with the instrument it looks like a cross between a banjo and a fiddle and is played like a fiddle. That focus gives the song a much more direct Malian identity. That is even considering the use of the guitar and shaker. It makes for more interest in the album’s arrangements because of the contrast of the instrumentation within the song and even to the album’s other works. On the other polar end of the album’s arrangements is ‘Cisse’. This song’s instrumentation and its overall sound is very much a direct blues style work. The layering and sound of the guitar couples with the subtle time keeping lend themselves wholly to comparisons to the old R&B-infused blues works of days gone by. It is an approach and sound that audiences will welcome. When this is considered along with the other arrangements examined here and the rest of the album’s compositions, the overall musical picture presented here creates a strong foundation for the record. The album’s companion booklet builds on that foundation, making the album even more appealing.
The companion booklet that comes with Anansy Cisse’s new album is critical to the record’s presentation because of the background that it presents. Audiences learn in reading the booklet’s liner notes, that Anoura almost did not happen. That was because of a robbery and assault that happened to him in 2018. The full story will be left for audiences to learn for themselves. What will be noted here is that the delay happened as a result of the emotional impact that the incident had on Cisse.
Also revealed through the booklet’s liner notes is that some of the songs present socio-political themes that are directly related to the unrest in Cisse’s home nation. He does not just touch on political issues here. As noted in the liner notes, the record’s opener, ‘Tiawo’ (which translates to ‘Education’), is a work that lyrically focuses on the need for more and better education among Mali’s children. As if that is not enough, there is also a tribute to Cisse’s friend and legendary suko player, Zoumana Tereta in one of the songs. This is yet another tidbit that enriches the overall listening experience here. Add in the fact that the album’s full songs – there are two instrumentals featured in the record – are sung in Cisse’s native language (also revealed through the liner notes), and the background offered in the liner notes helps establish even more appreciation for the album among audiences who do not speak the noted language. That is because they offer an understanding of the songs through their brief windows. Keeping this in mind, no doubt is left as to the importance of the album’s booklet to its presentation. It is just one more element that makes the album a success. The album’s production puts the final touch to its presentation.
The production that went into Anoura (The Light) plays its own part to the record’s presentation in that it ensures the various elements in each arrangement are balanced. As noted already, some of the songs featured in this album blend east and west while others are distinctly either east or west. The songs that blend the noted influences do so well in making sure each side is brought out best, making sure the fullest impact results in that balance. From the guitars, to the soku, to the calabash and more, audiences get in this album, a collection of songs that makes sure no one part overpowers the others at any point. The result of that balance is that each song equally engages and entertains listeners throughout. When this final touch is considered along with the importance of the album’s musical arrangements and its companion booklet, the whole makes the album’s overall presentation fully engaging and entertaining.
Anansy Cisse’s sophomore album Anoura (The Light) is a presentation that his established audience base will appreciate just as much as general World Music and blues fans. That is proven in part through the record’s featured arrangements. The arrangements blend eastern and western influences at some points while also separating them at others. Throughout it all, the arrangements offer something for every noted listener. The companion booklet that accompanies Cisse’s new album adds to the record’s appeal thanks to the background information that it offers on the album and its content. The production rounds out the album’s most important elements. It ensures that each song offers listeners the best possible impact by balancing each element within each song. Each element examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make Anoura (The Light) a presentation that holds its own against this year’s current field of new World Music offerings. Anoura (The Light) is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network.
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