CD review by Tony Smith
Every Australian world music fan should have this CD in their library.
This is a beautifully balanced album, heavily influenced by West Africa where Miriam Lieberman took up the kora.
Several tracks on this CD are in the Bambara language while others are in English.
All are pleasant listening, even where the lyrics bring serious messages.
The opening track, ‘Bamako’, sets a jaunty upbeat feel: ‘It was New Years Eve in dusty Bamako’.
Lieberman plays acoustic guitar here with a picking style which shows kora influence.
The album was produced partly in Bamako, Mali, and partly in Sydney.
Lieberman is supported by many fine musicians and has enjoyed collaboration with some outstanding West African arrangers of traditional songs.
Lieberman wrote seven tracks while the remaining three, ‘Djarabi’, ‘Mali Sadjo’ and ‘Wourou Songo’, are traditional songs for which she was joined by co-arrangers, Aliou Sam and Toumani Diabate.
‘As-Salaam’ speaks of secret love in a tragic situation where ‘our brothers fight and fall (be)cause we’re from different sides’.
This track, like the important song, ‘To Rise Again’, highlights the plight of children forced into arms during the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Lieberman suggests lighting a candle for stolen innocence and notes that sales of this song go to the Jeneba project working to rehabilitate these fallen angels, who were told that ‘good is bad and bad is good’ and that when they were killing ‘it was only a game’.
Lieberman’s acute social observation is evident in, ‘Rhythm and Sound’, which tells of a hardworking young woman who starts collecting shellfish before dawn in all weathers.
Perhaps this woman survives because she is able to relax by putting on a short skirt and heading off to the samba where she shakes her troubles away.
Lieberman dedicates this album to the memory of her sister, Lucy, who died in her teens.
‘Today Is All’ is a poignant song about ‘all the time I thought we’d share’ and how her empty room calls.
While many musicians deserve mention for their support, the cello of Kate Adams is outstanding here, as it is on ‘Wourou Songo’.
Sibou Bangoura’s drumming on djembe, sangban and kenkeni is also a fine contribution on ‘Djarabi’.
The electric bass of Faba Mahomed Koita is notable on several tracks.
Lieberman’s vocal pairing with Aliou Sam is impressive on a couple of tracks, especially ‘Mali Sadjo’.
The kora of Mamadou Chief Soumano adds those special characteristically light touches to ‘Many’s the Day’ and ‘Mali Sadjo’, while Lieberman takes up the kora for ‘Wourou Songo’.
Lieberman’s voice is best on this track, where it can take flight with just the backing of her kora and the cello of Kate Adams.
‘This Is The Story’ is a very fine album.
It marks an important point in the development of Miriam Lieberman’s music.
The album title is very appropriate because the songs tell stories, and this makes them all the more compelling listening.
With excellent arrangements, fine support instrumentalists and Lieberman’s beautiful voice, this album is outstanding Australian/World music.
By Tony Smith