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Ocean Blues - Djeli Moussa Diawara and Bob Brozman
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Volume 20, Number 1, 2001

Ocean Blues


Oh, the crimes that have been committed in the name of world beat…but one merger of West African and Hawaiian styles will never be indicted, thanks to the good humor and beautiful textures of the Djeli Moussa Diawara and Bob Brozman collaboration, Ocean Blues - From Africa to Hawaii.

Diawara and Brozman, who first met in 1999 at a musical festival on the blue ocean island of Reunion, aren't the least bit interested in carving out a world beat genre, as the pastiche approach of this off-the-cuff session proves. They just want to make music together. Thus the melancholy "Kanun" revels in the deep string strata of Djeli Moussa's rippling kora harp offset by Bob's National steel guitar played Hawaiian slide style, only to be followed by "Maloyan Devil," a comic blues number voiced with Leon Redbone-angst by the American as the Guinean pours an astonishing number of notes per measure through the cracks. It's a bit of a goof in the same vein as the calypso "Uncle Joe." But the crackling energy of two prodigious musicians in love with their respective acoustic instruments throws a dazzling corona around these novelty numbers. Instead of a distancing effect, the sloughed-off humor comes across as a symptom of sympatico warmth.

Both artists have a long history of playing other people's music. Diawara served for years in the legendary Cuban son-influenced Rail Band with his half-brother Mory Kante, then went on to flamenco and techno territory. Brozman, meanwhile, toured and recorded with Hawaiian music titans, the Tau Moe Family, and most recently cut a disc with Okinawa's Takashi Hirayasu which bristles with the same acoustic fire as Ocean Blues. Together, both men prove that plucked instruments are plucked instruments, and two contrasting styles can magnetize providing the pluckers have got the urge, oomph, and smarts to bend their strings a little. …

You can't listen without smiling, nor can you resist the joy as these two artists craft a beguiling mesh of instruments untrammeled by any studio technology beyond what it takes to glue their buzzing electrons onto compact disc.

Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar

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