Album Review: Oumou Sangaré – Acoustic [No Format!; June 2020]

Acoustic is a rootsy reimagining of Malian superstar Oumou Sangaré’s 2017 album Mogoya, but where Mogoya used a palette of beats and synths, Acoustic says more with less. 

Opening with ‘Kamelemba’, a song of counsel warning women away from sweet talkers and playboys, Oumou’s majestic voice converses with the jittery buzz of the kamelé n’goni – the hunters’ harp from the Wassoulou region of South West Mali that has anchored each of this West African queen’s eight albums.

The staccato rhythm of Benogo’ Diakité’s n’goni provides all the percussion needed for this hypnotic album and on songs like ‘Fadjamou’, it braids tightly with the nylon string guitar of Guima Kouyate, allowing Oumou to trade verses with backing singers Emma Lamadji and Kandy Guira.

The only other instrumentation on Acoustic is the inspired use of celesta and toy organ played by Vincent Taurelle from French band Air adding extra sonics to an ethereally recorded and mixed album. Acoustic also sees Oumou reprise two songs from her back catalogue `Diaraby Nene’ (recently sampled by Beyoncé) and the hauntingly beautiful `Saa Magni’ (Death is terrible).

A perfect album that Oumou is rescheduled to perform at The Queen Elizabeth Hall on 16th June 2021.