Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
October 17, 2022 - 4:03pm EDT
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Berikely & Zama’s “Elaela” is an album that went into my car’s CD player and then stayed there for several days. The debut recording by Franco-Malagasy band Berikely & Zama provided upbeat and inspirational music, largely acoustic in nature, that kept me motivated and happy while cruising back and forth to gigs and jams or running errands around town. Berikely is an expressive Malagasy singer, songwriter and player of kabosy, the emblematic box guitar of Madagascar. The instrument, with four to six strings in open tuning, is commonly thought to be a direct descendant of the Arabic oud. Kabosys are frequently handmade from scavenged materials, and they may be strung with nylon (often used fishing line) or steel (often from scrap wire or cable).   

Zama is Eric Doboka (guitar, vocal harmony), Thomas Boucherie (bass), Samuel “Bema” Ratovondrahery (percussion, vocal harmony), and Jean-Yves Boucherie (drums, vocal harmony). Offering an original, rhythmically-enticing sound strongly influenced by traditional Malagasy rhythms, the band is very cohesive instrumentally. Radiant vocals emphasize call and response as band members explore themes of time passing, living life to its fullest, and enjoying happy moment with friends and relatives.

Perhaps they could have opened with track 9, “Salama” that is Malagasy for “Hello,” a hearty greeting and welcoming introduction to their alluring music. Tracks like Elaela (A Long Time), C'est Le Moment (It’s The Moment) and Fiova (Change) seem to evoke some nostalgic imagery of home or friends, while the toes never stop tapping on danceable grooves of standout songs like Mafoaka (It’s A Lot of Fun) and Tsara Loatra (Too Good). Despite changes, trials or tribulation vocalized by the singers, Berikely & Zama’s lively numbers will stir your soul and put spirit in your feet. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)