Faya is a meeting of musicians; New Yorker Joe Driscoll and Guinean kora maestro Sekou Kouyate. Driscoll speaks no French and Kouyate little English, but the two of them have sought to create an afro – rock – hip hop fusion to transcend language. Occasionally they even succeed.
Kouyate is the star of the show. He commands the Kora, coaxing from it’s strings an ethereal sound somewhere between a guitar carved of crystal and a Rennaisance harpsichord. The man is a rare virtuoso- in France he’s known as the Hendrix of the instrument, and a blast of his insane fingerpicking on opener Tanama confirm this as no idle hyperbole. Kouyate’s playing shimmers and soars, the Kora electrically enhanced, occasionally gritty with fuzzbox overdrive, often beautiful with a precise clarity. The solo on Lady is perfect, a spectacular, charged, blast of joy. I defy anyone with the tiniest interest in music not to listen to it utterly enchanted.
Now the downside. And for me it’s a biggie. White New Yorker Joe Driscoll, props to him for bringing the project together and everything, has a penchant for rapping in a really dubious ‘pidgen Jamaican’ accent. Where he got this from is anyone’s guess, and if he set out to sound like a public school boy trying to score in Brixton, he’s doing a great job. He’s effectively taken Kouyate’s sublime playing and jammed a comedy Rasta hat on top. Unfortunately – inevitably – it really distracts from what would otherwise be an excellent album. Gap year students having totes amaze experiences gawping at poor people in hot countries may disagree, but there you go; you pays yer money, you makes yer choice. Still, worth listening to for Kouyate’s genius alone