Samba Toure's previous album Albala was recorded during the fear-laden atmosphere of 2012, when northern Mali (including his ancestral village of Dire) had succumbed to sharia law and radical Islamist control and Bamako, his adopted home, still reeled in the chaos of the recent military coup. Albala received widespread acclaim and was rightfully recognized not only as the best album of Samba's career but also as an undeniable musical statement about the human toll of war and political crisis. Samba had spent years honing his artistry (including stints playing with Malian blues master Ali Farka Toure and Kora genius Toumani Diabate) and Albala signposted a mature artist, full of sonic imagination and narrative fire. Gandadiko, the title of Samba's potent, diverse and ambitious new album, translates from his native language Songhai as: "Land of Drought" or "Burning Land." The title seems to indicate a return to the dark textures that marked Albala but in fact Gandadiko is a more complex story than that. Toure is known to search for the seeds of his musical ideas in the assorted stack of CDs he listens to while driving through the chaotic streets of Bamako. The out-of-the-box musical inspirations he has picked up for his new album range from Serge Gainsbourg to Bo Diddley via Tom Petty to funky psychedelia, though of course, all the raw material is instinctually filtered through the traditional melodies and rhythms of his Songhai musical heritage. The songs on Gandadiko are in fact framed by a restless eclecticism. Samba's guitar-playing has never been so anxious, exploratory and rock and roll and his voice has never been as smooth and relaxed.
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