It’s easy to see why Mory Kante ticks world-music purists off. The descendant of a caste of Guinean court musicians whose lineage goes back to the 14th-century Mali Empire, Kante plays a mean kora (the jangling 12-string African harp) and wails almost as intensely as Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour. But he also has a pop sweet tooth that makes this one of the most lushly produced West African releases yet. ”Mankene” is a stadium sing-along that melds Philly-Soul strings, Top-40 guitar, and rootsy vocals. ”Touma Seminde” is even more ambitious: It reaches across the continent to South Africa and surrounds Solomon Linda’s ”Mbube” (a.k.a. ”The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) with mechanized rhythms and peppery Antillean horns. While neither Kante’s keening nor the album as a whole has the soulful depth of N’Dour’s Set, Touma compensates with brilliant, danceable sheen. Let the purists fume; this one’s for everybody else. B+
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