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Music Review: 'Monistic Theory,' Joe Driscoll And Sekou Kouyate

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Two musicians meet at a French music festival and decide to pair up. It happens. But for American Joe Driscoll and Guinean Sekou Kouyate, what began as a cross-cultural jam session has grown into a lasting musical partnership. Today the duo released their second album, "Monistic Theory." Banning Eyre has this review.

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: When they first met, Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate didn't even share a common language, but their musical connection was instantaneous.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BATAFA")

JOE DRISCOLL AND SEKOU KOUYATE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: On their new album, they record with a backing band, but the duo's fluid dialogue is front and center as they trade vocal choruses and instrumental riffs like principals in a rock band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BATAFA")

JOE DRISCOLL AND SEKOU KOUYATE: (Singing) World gone mad, getting worse every minute, and everyone in it is just living like a sinner. There's a crazy frustration. Lights are flickering out, but we will be the generation that will figure it out.

EYRE: In their quest to be the generation that will figure it out, these two sideline all sorts of conventions and chart their own course with cheerful confidence. Sekou Kouyate comes from a traditional music family, specializing in the venerable 21-string West African harp called the kora. But Sekou's generation long ago started playing their koras through guitar effects and distortion pedals, aiming for rock bravado as much as ceremonial elegance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAMALA")

EYRE: The grooves on this album feel more like soul, R&B and rock than they do like African pop, but these young artists seem unconcerned about genres. Their goal is to find common ground, a place where they can converse easily despite all the history and culture that separates them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAMA")

JOE DRISCOLL AND SEKOU KOUYATE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: There's a refreshingly casual flow - rapping, singing, riffing and grooving in these 10 tracks, and that's their charm. After decades of high-concept world music collaborations, these two musicians largely dispense with fussiness and grandiosity. To be sure, there is deep history linking West African and American music, but Driscoll and Kouyate take that as a given and get right to kicking out the jams, just two homies from the virtual global hood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISING TIDE")

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is a producer for Afropop Worldwide. He reviewed "Monistic Theory" by Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISING TIDE")

JOE DRISCOLL AND SEKOU KOUYATE: (Singing) Fed up get up and take a stand. Many more tons, many foreign lands. We speak, they seem to understand. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.