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BBC – Music – Review of Arnaldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra & Toumani Diabaté

Written by on October 24, 2020

This rather oddball Mali/Brazil collaborative album comprises the follow-up to a performance by these three musicians at the Brazilian festival Back2Black in 2010.

Singer/poet Arnaldo Antunes is best known outside Brazil for his role in another three-way collaboration – the hugely successful Tribalistas album he made with compatriots Marisa Monte and Carlinhos Brown in 2002. In that instance, his droning but engaging voice was restricted to backing vocals. So it’s interesting to hear him actually sing here.

Of course, the world’s most famous kora player, Toumani Diabaté, scarcely needs introducing. Conversely, São Paulo-based guitarist, composer and singer Edgard Scandurra is a major figure on the Brazilian music scene, but not so recognised beyond it.

Though not without a certain naïve charm, A Curva da Cintura actually sounds more like a work in progress, or even a scrapbook of musical ideas, rather than a finished album, and suffers from a dearth of fully formed songs.

Underwhelming opener Cê Não Vai Me Acompanhar plods along on a leaden 4/4 beat. With such a rich array of roots rhythms to choose from, in both Malian and Brazilian music, this feels like a let-down. But a radically altered interpretation of Diabaté’s Kaira stands out.

The original was the beautifully meditative title track of his 1988 solo debut, and also appeared as an instrumental on his 2005 collaboration with Ali Farka Touré, In the Heart of the Moon. This new version has a vocal from both Antunes and Safiatou Diabaté, the wife of Toumani’s younger brother, Sidiki. It also has some lovely balafon by Fode Lassana Diabaté of the Afrocubism project.

There is an intriguing moment towards the end of the bluesy Ir, Mão, when the gritty-voiced griot Zoumana Tereta joins in with his soku fiddle and some eerie wailing. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of this kind of chemistry apparent in many places, or a little more substantial songwriting.

Some redemption is found in the carnivalesque conclusion of Coração de Mãe and the light-hearted rock-out Meu Cabelo (‘My Hair’). But like many a “supergroup” before them, this one doesn’t quite meet the expectations that their combined reputations create.

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