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Feeling the Blues of the World

Nuru Kane creates a musical journey that covers centuries, continents and many ways of thinking.
Nuru Kane creates a musical journey that covers centuries, continents and many ways of thinking.

Nuru Kane knows his way around the blues — the deep, rich melancholy that extends beyond the emotional to become almost physical. But it manifests not in familiar stories of loss of home, lover and/or dog, but in the sound of blues farther from these shores. Kane arrives at his blues by way of Malian traditions, and blends it with his roots in Senegal, the traditions of the Gnawa people and his life in France to create the album Sigil. Playing guitar and the traditional Gumbiri three-stringed bass, he brings the legacy of that instrument in Africa and elsewhere together with more conventional influences to create a musical journey that covers centuries, continents and many ways of thinking.

"Cigil" is a traveling song, in that it saunters away from where it begins, sometimes doubling back on itself, sometimes charging ahead and sometimes settling where it is. The influence of the trance music of the Gnawa is there in the serpentine twisting of repeated rhythms and melodies. It feels like the turning of hips in a dance, smaller spirals that move in place or spin around the music in time. It shifts back and forth from a rustic acoustic sound to a sudden electrification of the Gumbiri, startling the listener from any head-bobbing that may have begun, before allowing the new change to become part of the tapestry. It could go on forever — shifting and changing, developing with subtle new twists of texture or melody — but it closes abruptly with a "se fini," practically begging for the replay.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Claire Blaustein
Claire Blaustein is a freelance writer and music critic who writes for a variety of publications, including The Washington Post, Exclaim! Magazine and La Scena Musicale. She came to NPR as a Performance Today intern in 2005, and has thus far refused to leave. When not doing any of the above, she writes in her blog, I Dig Music..., and pouts until someone gives her a new CD to play with.