Transparent Water Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita Ota Records/World Village The seamless strains created by prolific Cuban composer and jazz pianist Omar Sosa with Senegalese musician Seckou Keita and other cosmopolitan new collaborators in his latest cross-cultural project beg to be absorbed in a horizontal position, preferably with the blinds drawn. No disparagement is intended. As the title might suggest, it’s the kind of album that in past pre-download decades would have been filed in the New Age racks of record stores.
Fear not: Transparent Water is the antithesis of aural wallpaper of yore. Indeed, it is a quite exquisite collaboration that unites a unique combination of traditional instruments with Sosa’s sophisticated piano playing — Keita’s West African kora harp and drums (djembe, sabar, tama), Latin percussion (bata, clave, guataca, calabaza, maracas), Chinese wind instruments (sheng and bawu) and Japanese and Korean zithers (koto and geomungo).
Keita’s smooth vocal cords would soothe the most savage breast in meditative tracks such as Black Dream and Another Prayer. In Fatiliku, a comparatively up-tempo Latin-esque piece spiced with a repeated quote from a famous Cuban song ( El Manisero/The Peanut Vendor), the Senegalese’s singing is more soulful than spiritual. Sosa shines when his piano playing crosses to jazzier and bluesier plains, as in Darry and Peace Keeping.
Elsewhere, kora, keyboard and koto blend inextricably — most notably on Mining-Nahn and Thiossane. Avian effects embellish In the Forest. After a sombre start in which solo sheng evokes Asian ambience, Moro Yeye melts into a subdued chant and Latin piano pulse. Pulsating percussion underpins the deliciously melodic and rhythmic Tama-Tama.