Cumulative Index of African Music CD Reviews
Something other than the straightline Afrobeat suggested by the title is abroad here, but once you've recalibrated your expectations, you'll likely find it enchanting and distinctly more-ish. It's Afrobeat alright, but cooked in a gentler oven and spiced with subtler ingredients than in Fela Kuti's recipes.
Number one with a mango. Recorded live in Paris, gorgeous small band arrangements of some of Papa Wemba's best-loved hits of the '90s and early '00sirresistible body-rocking Congolese rumba/ soukous with a dash of salsa and two dashes of French pop. The accompanying DVD is an audio-visual treat.
Every now and again, a label pulls an unissued session out of the vaults and it proves to be a down-by-law, certified stoner. The original palmwine highlife album recorded in the US in '63/'64 by Nigerian expat Ilori is augmented here by three previously unreleased, extended drum choir workouts featuring guests including drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter Donald Byrd.
Longtime Fela Kuti mainman Tony Allen's drumming continues to delight, but the album overall, like other post-Kuti Allen albums before it, is a mixture of the sublime and the frankly pretty ordinary, with on this occasion rather too much of the latter.
An inspired trawl through the treasure trove that is urban Nigerian social music of the late '60s through mid '80sa laid-back, all-night, intertribal dance party featuring classic highlife, Afrobeat, juju, and fuji hits of the era in all their four-track, one-take, original glory.
A five-star, in-the-tradition, establishment-challenging, all nations Afrobeat monster out of London. Part of Soothsayers' genius has been to retain the raw simplicity and drive of Fela Kuti's original creation, while grafting on some of the most beautiful black and African musics that have since coexisted alongside it, including most prominently conscious reggae, dub, mbalax, jonkonu, funk, hip-hop and jazz.
A fresh serving of mesmerising trance music from Kinshasa, served up with a little more variety than on Konono No.1's original, apocalyptic Congotronics. Subtitled Buzz 'n' Rumble From The Urb 'n' Jungle, this excellent second edition features Konono alongside six other Kinshasa mutant roots bands.
The first album of new material by "Africa's Bob Dylan" in over five years, incorporates vaguely North African and vaguely South African elements here and thereappealing gestures, with high production values to boot, but more of a murky international pop stew than the genuine cross-cultural fusion of his Senegalese compatriots Youssou N'Dour and Thione Seck.
The Super Rail Band was a vital early career stepping-stone for band members Salif Keita and Mory Kante. Recorded in late '82 and first released in the UK in '85 as New Dimensions In Rail Culture, this reissue puts an important piece of the electric griot jigsaw back in the racks.
The less-traveled byways of cross-cultural exploration sometimes reveal the most fascinating new horizons, and this meld of Cuban and Algerian musics is an example. Cuban-born, New York-resident percussionist Roberto Rodriguez meets Marseilles-based, Algerian pianist Maurice El Médioni at the grass roots of Andalusian music, and a rainbow-hued romp of a party breaks out.
Pure guitar pleasure, as Washington, DC indie rock band Golden record with Kenyan benga master Otieno Jagwasi. "Ok-oyot" apparently translates as "it's not easy," a catchphrase employed by benga musicians to refer to the burdens of everyday lifebut it could equally apply to the deceptive ease of the complex music they produce. Otieno's guitar and voice allow both interpretations.
A posthumous release by longtime expatriate, percussionist and world-music impresario Olatunji offers contemplative drum concertos. The very names of the drums are evocativeashiko, djembe, ngoma, gudugudu, shekerebut they are sonically heterogeneous as well: the mix of metal, wood, animal hide and other materials provides considerable variation in pitch and timbre.