Vocalist, dancer, and percussionist Dobet Gnahore has been hailed Africa's leading star on the rise, compared to genre legends and cultural ambassadors like Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masakela by her mid-twenties. Brought up in a musical and artistic hot-house environment, Gnahore's musical talent comes as no surprise. Her father, Boni Gnahore, a drummer, vocalist, and performer renown across the Ivory Coast, was a founding member of the artist colony Village Ki-Yi M'Bock, a community of more than 50 artists from multiple disciplines and backgrounds. Her first artistic turning point came when Gnahore was 12 and announced to her father that she wasn't going to school anymore, but rather staying at the colony to learn. After years of apprenticeship with some of the continent's most proficient artists, Gnahore came upon a second turning point. French guitarist Colin Laroche de Feline came to the village, his intended three-day visit turning into a three-year residency. Gnahore's and Laroche de Feline's professional and personal lives became woven together, creating a duo called Ano Neko. They spent significant time in both Africa and France (depending on the African political climate) touring and performing. The group's self-titled debut was released in 2004 to enthusiastic critical acclaim. Two years later Ano Neko was invited to join the Putumayo Acoustic Africa tour, which traveled all over Europe and North America. Gnahore and Laroche de Feline won fans and impressed audiences, performing alongside musical greats Vusi Mahlasela and Habib Koité. Soon to follow was Gnahore's sophomore release, Na Afriki, which, thanks to her ever expanding fan base, appeared on world music charts immediately following its release. Laroche de Feline and Gnahore maintain a busy performance schedule while living with their daughter in the French countryside. Gnahore's comfort in a wide array of African musical styles has earned her a reputation as prodigy and talent that will one day help chart the course for the genre. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez
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Africa - Released February 1, 2004 | Contre-Jour
It's all a bit too neat and glossy. All the rough edges that could have given Dobet Gnahore's album some life and real human quality have been carefully rubbed away, leaving instead the kind of studio sheen that used to be associated with California rather than the Ivory Coast. Yes, she can sing well enough, and emote in the right places, but it all seems too predetermined and bloodless, rather than inspired. Everything is tasteful and precise, down to the spare backing and the exquisitely arranged harmonies, but there's no sense of any real emotion involved. Even Gnahore herself sounds like an actor just going through the motions. There's potential in her, but it'll need something much rawer than this to bring it out. ~ Chris Nickson
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