Reviews October 30, 2015

Moogho translates as "world" in Mooré, the language of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso. That sounds like the right title for an album from the Ouagadougou-based rapper Art Melody, with beats by producers from France, Réunion, Finland, Poland and the U.S., co-released on Akwaaba Music (a Ghana-based record label run by Franco-American mastermind Benjamin Lebrave) and Tentacule Records from Bordeaux, France (motto: "Just Music / No World / Hip-Hop is a Fact / No Global").

Moogho is an exciting, unsettling album, with an urgent musical energy that matches the intensity of Art Melody's vocal flow in the Mooré and Dioula languages. His voice is a constant call of alarm, warning and critique. His delivery is often hoarse, harsh and urgent, like someone who has been shouting to be heard for a long time, but this album also reveals new melodic and textural contours to his vocal style.

The album opens with "Na Kiend Songo," produced by Labelle, from the Francophone island of Réunion. A driving talking-drum sample, twanging strings and ghostly reverb tails create an underlying tension throughout the piece. Then the beat drops and Art Melody's vocal attack begins. At times, his vocals are doubled in full voice and a low growl.

Next up is the percussion and horn-driven "Karong Korogo," which we premiered earlier this week. The track opens like a surprise attack, with Art Melody’s characteristic growly voice rap-singing over a loping percussive beat by his long-time French producer Redrum. Suddenly horns emerge, and the interplay between passionate vocals and the brass fanfare takes the tune to the next level.

Some of the dopest beats on Moogho are slow and grinding, leaving plenty of room for Art Melody's unique rhythmic and melodic approaches. Examples include "Wogdog Bukaodba," with bongo rolls and delayed bass; the creepy swagger of "Hey Mah," where Art Melody sounds like he's chanting a lament over a solitary blues guitar lick; and the jagged, aggressive flow and floating orchestral samples of "Micro Macré:"

A few of the tunes use the boom-bap style beats reminiscent of Art Melody's previous records, like "Ki Kanga," "Wa Gare Hip-Hop An," and "Wakat Songo," but contextualized by Art Melody's high-energy flow and even distribution throughout the album, these tunes serve as reminders of the roots of hip-hop.

The experimental side of the album is most evident in the frenetic electro closer "Naong Sasam," created with Brooklyn-based producer Afrikan Sciences. Art Melody intones while beats and bleeps collide and spin around his voice.

"Ya N'Targoama," produced by Finnish musician Jimi Tenor, is experimental in an oddball, jazzy, yet dance-friendly way. The square digital beat, flute and synth flourishes and rhythmic female backing vocals are more upbeat and peppy than the rest of the album, but Art Melody fits right in with a steady, punchy flow. He fits in just as well with the ominous gloom of "Tekré Koom," which sounds like an apocalyptic take on New Age music production, complete with bird calls, droning didjeridu bass and booming percussion hits.

In a recent interview, Art Melody spoke about how the lyrics for the songs on Moogho were composed before, during and after the popular uprisings that ousted Burkinabe dictator Blaise Compaoré, in power for 27 years until October 2014. Art Melody's lyrical messages in Mooré and Dioula are geared towards the crowds of youth protesters who successfully defended the transition to democracy earlier this month, rejecting a military coup led by the same forces that assassinated independence president Thomas Sankara in 1987. While his messages are directed towards the people of Burkina Faso, the production on Moogho has a global appeal, as does Art Melody's voice.

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