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Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate | Faya

album review by John Powell

Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate| Faya

Unlikely pairings can oftentimes have beautiful results. For music, there’s Joe Driscoll, a one-man show, who plays guitar, beat boxes, sings, and raps- paired with Sekou Kouyate, A Guinean kora playing whiz. Their team-up began with a chance meeting in France that led to musical collaboration. While the two can barely communicate with one another, they have a way with music.

Faya breaks language barriers and makes you realize that troubles are universal, as is hope. The two make music with fury, but while each verse is heavy, it’s not depressing. They attack poverty, language barriers, and other social issues.

While the album vibes off of hip-hop beats that sounds familiar in many ways, as does the Guinean influence, Sekou stands out with his electric kora playing. Over Joe’s built up beats, Sekou sometimes soars away on a delicious solo, like on the opener, “Tanama”.

In fact, the flipping of sounds is wonderful: Joe’s organic beat boxes and Sekou’s electric kora both break the molds. Joe kills every line he takes on, rapping at rapid fire. “Feel the blessing/ stepping through the sun/ Just ask him how to shine/ he’ll show you how it’s done,” Joe unleashes on “New York”. “Cali had the redwood trees/ but New York’s my home,” he adds.

The real gem, however, is “Passport”, with its distinctive bassline and easy flow. Sekou’s voice is mild and contemplative while Joe’s is bombastic. Each duet creates interesting intersections of sound. Joe seamlessly takes over where Sekou steps out. And having classic hip-hop conventions over the steady West African groove, where otherwise a rap song might be flush with noise, also adds texture.

Another beauty is “Zion”, the album’s closer, which is a folk song with pop power. One of the best aspects of Faya is the fun these two seem to be having, which transcends through the speakers. “Zion”, although serious in nature, isn’t angry. It’s placid. “Music will guide/ life will provide,” Joe sings, and maybe this is the takeaway. “People will get justice/ and life will be fair.”

This collaboration didn’t happen to improve album sales, or drop a stellar number one hit. Faya comes from love of music and its uses to get us to think about the important things. Joe and Sekou’s music will grow on you. It’s pretty and fierce. It’s tight and loose. For anyone that looks beyond the surface, I highly suggest checking out this album.

Bottom line: An interesting collaboration of widely different sounds leads to a unique sounding album of West African vibes blended with hip-hop aesthetic.


 

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