This genre-defying collaboration blends the funk-folk of rapper Driscoll with the virtuoso playing of the "Hendrix of the kora".
Time: 10 tracks / 40 mins
At the moment, reeling from Brexit, Brits feel like our nation has been ripped in two, and we could learn a lesson from this pair. One is from New York, the other from Guinea, and they have come together and made something distinctive from their differences, while remaining true to the culture of each.
The title is a clue to their philosophy. They are setting an example of working together and encourage others to break down borders too. "Whether you break or bend / Whether you fade or mend / The only true salvation is love in the end." Some would say that it sounds a little glib, but their hearts are in a good place and they are living it out.
The two are so interwoven that it is hard to separate their contributions; it is not as simple as alternating African and American tracks. Driscoll contributes some memorable acoustic guitar lines, shares vocals and raps here and there, while Kouyate has a very strong voice and a stunning virtuosity on the kora – unusually, an electric one.
It was this that brought the two so strikingly to my attention, seeing a live instrumental account of the duo performing Stevie Wonder’s “Masterblaster,” which is as good a version as I have heard and so engaging that you don’t miss the vocals at all.
However, probably because the duo’s compositional skills are not as strong as Stevie Wonder’s (no shame there) it is not representative of the album as a whole. It certainly shows Kouyate’s fluid and exciting approach to the kora, but the songs on the studio disc do not have quite the same compelling immediacy.
But they play well together, work to their strengths and do have some strong moments. On the slightly funky opener “Tamala” Driscoll sets up a tight mid-tempo groove and Kouyate just takes off. A similar thing happens on the fine “Tokira,” which enjoys a lovely chilled mood, even without Kouyate’s cascading harp-like runs.“Wama” even turns into a dub piece at the end.
Whatever thoughts you have on the album, it is worth checking out the YouTube account of “MasterBlaster.” That live piece closes the disc and – along with “Tokira” and “Tamala” – is well worth a download.