The Malian music warrior Cheick Tidiane Seck unveils Kelena Fôly, his fourth solo album available November 18th.
“Expressing yourself alone through music”. Here’s the significance of Kelena Fôly, the Bambara title of Cheick Tidiane Seck’s new project. The Ségou native, a city northeast of Bamako, Mali, is back with a fourth solo opus. His first album Mandingroove came out in 2003 after already 30 years in the industry. It unveiled powerful vocal collaborations exalted by bright Malian cords and percussions. In 2008, Sabaly blended Afro-American inspirations with Mande sounds and prestigious duos (including Oumou Sangaré, Manu Dibango, and Dee Dee Bridgewater). After this masterpiece came Guerrier in 2013. Again, the Malian star merged genres and influences in blues-infused ballads. But for this fourth album, Cheick Tidiane Seck offers sober compositions, using only his voice and a piano. The Steinway one in Studio Pigalle, where Kelena Fôly was recorded in two days.
This time, the nine titles on this album are solemn, and melancholic. In “Motherless Child”, Seck covers the negro spiritual interpreted by many icons, such as Louis Armstrong. He also adds a verse dedicated to his mother, a famous singer he lost at a young age. “Aimé Césaire” salutes the Martinican herald of négritude, and recites “Souffles”, an epistle by Senegalese poet Birago Diop. The musician also pays homage to the beautiful “Niger River” landscapes across West Africa. The Steinway piano is king throughout the album.
Cheick Tidiane Seck sings parsimoniously, leaving the keyboard notes all the space to resonate. But the vocalist opens up on the improvised final track, titled “Corona”. In 2020, the then 67 years old artist was seriously affected by the virus. Now a survivor, he offers a letter to the world, preaching forgiveness and unity. Kelena Fôly is Cheick Tidiane Seck’s second wind.
Kelena Fôly will be available on November 18th. Preorder here.
Listen to “Aimé Césaire” on our Songs of the Week playlist.