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Songlines Magazine - Top of the World - Oktober 2010

Return of the real Sammy

Here is the long awaited return of one of Madagascar’s most loved musicians, valiha (bamboo zither) master and multi-instrumentalist Samoela Andriamalalaharijaona – thankfully best known just as Sammy. He formed the original Tarika Sammy (Sammy’s Group) in 1983 which blazed a trail across the world until they split up ten years later, reforming without him as Tarika, under singer Hanitra. Sammy’s group name on this album, Samy Izy, is a play on words in Malagasy with two different meanings: ‘the real Sammy’ and ‘just as good’.

Sammy is a highly talented singer-songwriter who designs and builds his own musical instruments, and he plays no less than 13 different instruments on this disc. Sammy has always put together interesting groups; this time he has two stunning vocalists, with Bosco who comes from the east and Amizou, a female singer from Fianarantsoa. The rhythm section is covered by Petit, who grew up with the street drummers of Antananarivo. Guest musicians include Médicis, who comes from the south-west and is, unusually, a left-handed accordionist who turns the instrument upside-down to play. Two trumpet players from Hira Gasy troupes provide a horn section on ‘Omaly’, sodina (flute) master Rageorge features on two tracks and there is even an appearance from the Tana Gospel Choir. Tsara Madagasikara showcases an older and wiser Sammy with an album that exudes energy, originality and wisdom. Powerful performances from the four corners of Madagascar make this a really great album that leaves you wanting more.

Paddy Bush