Stronghold Sound released their follow-up to Sembeh Ma Fa Fe: Revisits Volume a couple of months ago. Sembeh Ma Fa Fe: Roots Volume focuses on traditional Guinean music sang with passion and crafted with plenty of djembe and balafon in the mix. This dynamic set of polyrhythmic music is a welcome addition to the Sembeh Ma Fa Fe collection. While the Revisits Volume was a nice introduction to some of the more contemporary sounds of Guinea, Roots Volume offers a glimpse of traditional Mandeng music and culture.
This exciting album produced by Dub Snakkr kicks off with Blondi (Alseny Camara) singing with traditional gunguma accompaniment. Saran Diabate and her brother, bassist Lanciney Diabate, feature on one of the funkiest tracks on the album. “Tounkan” also includes Bosta on vocals, but it is Saran Diabate’s voice that takes top honors. Her powerful, driving vocals push the song into another realm. It’s no surprise this track was selected for Captain Planet’s remix, although the original stands up on its own.
MyBaby (Kadiatou Sylla) is the shining contributor on Roots Volume. As one of the elder artists on this record, it’s no surprise her commanding performances are perhaps the most rewarding. She sings in a classic style dubbed Mamaya and injects Guinean folk with a bit of salsa and flair. Her expertise and timing is infectious throughout the four tracks she is featured on.
The four remixes from Captain Planet, Boima & Giku, J-Boogie and Dub Snakkr are catchy but seem a bit unnecessary. None of them outshine the original compositions although they may appeal to listeners who like dancefloor remixes. Balandougou Kan wrap the album up with three terrific tracks filled with heavy percussion and propulsive rhythms. Accompanied by Geizu, Balandougou Kan offers a nice bit of contrast to the electronic styling of the remixes preceding them.
“Sembeh Ma Fa Fe” translates from Susu to “strong sound coming.” Revisits Volume introduced a lot of people to contemporary Guinean music, but Roots Volume adds another layer of depth, collecting some of the best authentic Guinean music around from young up-and-coming artists to elderly visionaries who will gain a new audience with this compelling record.