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Les Amazones d'Afrique République Amazone

This debut has the relaxed confidence and interplay between players of a group decades into its career.

Released: 3 March 2017
République Amazone

Since storming their UK debut at WOMAD, anticipation has been building for the debut album from collective Les Amazones d'Afrique. Comprised of 12 West African women, they’re something of a supergroup, with Mariam Doumbia of Amadou & Mariam among their number. What’s remarkable is that despite forming in 2015, their debut for Real World Records has the relaxed confidence and interplay between players of a group decades into its career.

Though unrepresentative of the record, opener and lead single ‘Dombolo’ is a stone-cold knockout. It’s a fast and fevered dance production, falling somewhere between Angolan Kuduro and restless American footwork, featuring a call-to-arms vocal from Angélique Kidjo. Pitched percussion drags the song downwards in a disorientating doom spiral. 'Mansa Soyari', sung by Rokia Koné, feels more familiar, sounding closer to the grinding desert rock of radio friendly Tuareg bands like Tinariwen.

'Doona', sung by Mamani Keita, has a Bristolian trip hop vibe, with jazzy drums and a scratchy melody phasing in and out over a soft choral background and a knotty bassline. Like ‘Neboa’, it’s an exquisite production, with exactly the right number of elements, making it into the mix.

"Woman, don't you know you're a queen?" sings Nneka on 'La Dame Et Ses Valises', a lush R&B production in the Aaliyah mould, firmly linking the project with contemporary US empowerment pop. There’s too many great tracks to note individually, but check out ‘I Play The Kora’, a slinky celebration of an instrument once off-limits to women.