Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Burkina Electric: what dissolving borders really sound like

Posted By on 04.08.08 at 01:32 PM

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I don't mean to harp on any of the points I made in Friday's post, but considered next to the bands I referred to as "second-rate American acts who feebly pillage third-hand notions of world music," a group called Burkina Electric that's making its Chicago debut Wednesday night at the Old Town School is a useful counterexample. Burkina Electric's lineup includes both European and African musicians, and their music is a broad-minded, contemporary-sounding fusion that draws heavily (and knowledgeably) on ethnic traditions.

The group was formed in 2004 after percussionist Lukas Ligeti, son of famed Hungarian composer György Ligeti, traveled through Africa and met some musicians from Burkina Faso in neighboring Ivory Coast. On the group's recent debut, Rêem Tekré (Ata Tak)--the title means "musical exchange" in the Mooré language--dynamic, soulful vocal melodies by Maï Lingani and bubbling electric guitar lines by Wende K. Blass complement a sparkling mixture of acoustic and programmed drums, contrapuntal synthesizer parts, and samples (German electronic-music producer Pyrolator rounds out the lineup, though two dancers from Burkina Faso are also credited).

A second disc includes five remixes of four tunes from the first--including work by DJ Spooky, Mapstation, and Badawi--and they achieve the rare feat of sounding just as interesting as the original tracks. To be honest, the music doesn't grab me the way I'd hope, but at least Burkina Electric aren't taking the easy way out--they've neatly and intelligently integrated the two musical worlds they straddle.

Today's playlist:

Roky Erickson, I Have Always Been Here Before (Shout! Factory)
Lionel Marchetti & Seijiro Murayama, Hatali Atsalei (Intransitive)
Lafayette Gilchrist, 3 (Hyena)
Harry Nilsson, Skidoo and the Point (Camden)
William Parker & Hamid Drake, Summer Snow (Aum Fidelity)

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