Middle East & North Africa Nominee.
BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, 2008.
Brought to you by TQMP
The Quality Music Project
Every so often an album comes along that makes a reviewer do a double take. This one, from Mauritanian singer Malouma, sparkles like a veritable diamond. Having commanded international attention with her previous album, Dunya, a recording that veers back and forth between desert folk and Afro-pop, Malouma takes things a step further on Nour (Light) with experimental verve and the help of some visionary soundmen.
Long an advocate of women's rights in a country not well known for them, Malouma brings her gutsy aesthetic to bear on a series of bluesy songs that both articulate her struggle and set a template for a new, stunning fusion of East and West. Recorded in France with Malouma's own band and guest musicians such as clarinettist-keyboard player Guillaume Humery, electric guitarist Pierre Fruchard and Bojan Z on the intriguingly titled Fender Rhodes 'Xenophone' – a hybrid instrument based on the electric piano, Nour pays respect to tradition even as she weaves a path to the future. Malouma's voice – timeless, hypnotic, alternately harsh and sweet – is the focus here. Songs of love, loss and sensuality are delivered in guttural Arabic, with the same passion as pleas for religious tolerance ('Nebine') and ponderings on divine creation ('Nnew'). Sweet choruses vie and blend with snaky, shuddering rhythms, their trance-like quality underscored by Loy Ehrlich's 'gumbass' (a hybrid of Gnawa guenbri and bass guitar) and the deft sonic landscapes of Smadj – a man shaping up to be the Bill Laswell of desert blues. Armed with her ardin harp (the traditional women's instrument of Mauritania), Malouma reveals herself as nothing if not multifaceted – an upbeat reggae track, 'Casablanca', is impossibly catchy.
-- SongLines Magazine