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The legendary Malian singer/guitarist returns with his most personal and immersive album to date. Intimately recorded with a small band, Binga dives deep into Samba Touré's Songhoy roots. During the 15th and 16th centuries the Songhoy people ruled the largest empire in Africa. It stretched across the entire western Sahel, famed for the glory that was Timbuktu. But there's another place that lies a little under a hundred kilometers south of that history. Binga is the region that encompasses the vast space below the Saharan desert in Mali. This is where guitarist and singer Samba Touré grew up, and it still owns his heart -- Binga is the title of his fourth Glitterbeat album. With Binga, Touré has made sure those roots show proud and strong. With his bass player having moved to the US, it was a stripped-down combo of guitar, ngoni, calabash, and other percussion that entered the studio to record Binga. The result captures the lean tautness of the sound. The only addition on a few tracks was harmonica. That paring-back to the bare bones gave the musicians space to create what Touré calls "a communion between the instruments." As always, the groove is the foundation, the circling, mesmerizing riffs of Touré's guitar and the heartbeat rhythm of the calabash. It's relentless, mesmerizing, and the voice and the commentary of the ngoni revolve around it. This is music without embellishment, the very essence of Songhoy. Instrumental flourishes appear, but they're only brief, sharp flashes, like the conversation between guitar and ngoni at the end of "Sambalama". The focus is kept squarely on the power of the songs -- all sung in Sonhgoy, unlike previous albums. Touré has never shied away from describing the realities of life in his homeland. "Sambalama" is a joyful statement of standing tall and hoping for better days to come while on "Kola Cissé" Touré offers a praise song the memory of the late head of the Malian Football Federation. Two old Songhoy pieces bookend the disc, "Tamala" and "Terey Kongo", and both are filled with light, celebrating the history of the Songhoy people. Binga is the music of a realist. It's a cry from the soul, but even more, an affirmation of a nation's history, and Samba Touré's pride in it.