Mali Magic

"Nahawa Doumbia praises those who refuse to slumber in laziness" is how the first track on her fourth album is described. And you thought praise singing was only for the village poobahs.

Doumbia is a well-known "woman of Wassoulou" — Mali, that is — with a strong, tough voice that acutely pierces the curious pentatonic combination of guitars and percussion that composes the contemporary Mali sound. Sly electric and slide guitars slice through drums and the percussive ngoni guitar, adding another blue layer to Doumbia's songs of work, thanks and, in the astounding "Minia — The Sacred Boa" (RealAudio excerpt), sorcery.