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04/06/2016
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Moken: Songs of life from Cameroon to Detroit

Chapters of my Life
Moken

We say: Songs of life from Cameroon to Detroit

The last of four African music releases reviewed here this month, this one wears its geographical origin somewhat more lightly. Singer-songwriter Moken originally comes from Cameroon but moved to the United States several years ago, going to live in Detroit while he attended college. Although he grew up listening to traditional Cameroonian music, Moken lists his musical heroes as Van Morrison, Nina Simone and fellow countryman Manu Dibango. The influence of the latter two of these can be heard in his distinctive singing voice, which is quite heavily accented and jumps frequently from baritone to falsetto.

There's a cool semi-acoustic vibe at work throughout Chapters of my Life. The instrumentation is simple but effective, just guitar, bass, drums and a little unobtrusive programming. Although the overall sound is contemporary there are hints of jazz here and there, and also Senegalese mbalax on "Ma Masse" and noticeable Afro-Cuban influences at work on songs like "The Man That Never Gives Up." Other standout tracks include "Jerusalem" with its insistent, gently propelling rhythm, the autobiographical "Walking Man," and the hypnotic "A Bato Bam."