Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Thione Seck: Orientation [Sterns Africa, 2005]
Seck is mbalax's second banana, a leather-lunged griot renowned for lyrical wisdom whose work has never translated with anything near the fluency of Youssou N'Dour's--his groove is solider, hence less explosive, and he's shorter on telling musical detail. Like N'Dour, Seck had the idea of taking his Dakar brand of Mouridist Islam to Cairo long before September 11, but he was a year longer getting it right. The arrangements are more conventional and less delicate than N'Dour's Egyptian pomo-trad, and Indian elements are added to the big Cairo-pop orchestrations and choruses. But though the big man still sounds somewhat grand and stentorian to non-Wolof ears, the novelty factor and the alien melodic input put his wisdom across--if not as ideas, at least as an idea. A-