Here are several world music artists in single album review format. They are - Manu Dibango; Salif Keita: Super Rail Band; King Sunny Ade; Tony Allen: Hugh Masekela; Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens; Bellita; Angélique Kidjo and Ananda Shankar....
The delightful Kamalimba, however, evokes the spirit of South Africa and also Congolese music in its lively, totally addictive, lilting guitar picking sound. It is very much in the style of Ray Phiri, who featured on Paul Simon's Graceland. There is a lot of that album in this track. It is just an effervescent pleasure to listen to. Try keeping still.
Niamatoutou Kono is a return to the slow-paced groove of Mali with a beguiling vocal and, once again, a truly superb bass interjected with some sumptuous brass. Near the end the beat picks up a bit and it is just wonderful. When the saxophone comes in - oh yes. Just check out that groovy bass-drum-brass intro to Tolonté Sebessa. The horn charts on here are simply sumptuous. The guitar too. The music of the Gods. Dounia is an effortless piece of rhythmic slow shuffle, with some sublime saxophone. The guitar in the gracefully seductive Kanou Salé is marvellous too. Fourou Kolon has another captivating insistent beat to it. I will run out of superlatives soon. No wonder so many Western musicians look to this music for influence and inspiration. Superb.
The backing band is Kuti's Africa 70 outfit. Just as on Kuti's recordings they get into a groove using that insistent guitar repetition underpinning the whole thing. There is plenty of Kuti-style saxophone and, of course, Allen's powerhouse drumming. The two tracks on the first album are No Accommodation For Lagos, a seventeen-minute groove about the housing shortages in Nigeria's capital city and African Message which features another infectious Afrobeat rhythm and some killer drumming from Allen.
The second album contains four tracks and utilises a slightly more synthesised backing, but still full of funk and punchy Afrobeat horns. It is my favourite of the two albums.
Just listen to that impossibly catchy drum, bass and guitar rhythmic bit in Road Safety and try and keep still. The bass on Ariya, the lilting guitar and the funky, spacey keyboards are just "out there" as they say. The intoxicating, keyboard-y riff, together with the drums on Love Is A Natural Feeling is simply breathtaking. This is a seriously good album set. Highly recommended.
This is an excellent compilation of totally infectious music from the legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, well known for his work with Paul Simon and his championing of many human rights causes. He was known as "the father of South African jazz" and most of his material in the 1980s was delivered from a rhythmic jazz perspective, as opposed to say Graceland-style South African "township jive", although this does appear on this album in places. A fine example of this modern jazzy feel is African Breeze, which blends Masekela's sumptuous trumpet with some pounding tribal drums and some infectious jazz guitar, backed by swathes of eighties keyboards.
Just listen to Jive Motella or the shuffling Makhomabhaji, with its killer organ solo, if you want your spirits lifting. Indeed, put any of this album on at any time and it will get you going. When township musicians hit that lilting groove, it is the music of the Gods. Need any more proof? Try Sengikala Ngiyabaleka and its intoxicating saxophone riff and that typically township, rumbling bass line. Wonderful.
Motivos De Amar definitely sounds Brazilian with its sensual Samba-influenced groove. It features an enticing "cheese-grater" backing sound. Danzon A Mima has some lovely, nonchalantly entrancing piano and more inviting rhythms. The vocal that appears half way through is very Cuban. The piano quality continues on the appealingly syncopated Gitana and its improvised, high-pitched vocals. Once more, the bass is superb. The pace increases in tempo for Juegos, a Santana-esque instrumental, minus Carlos's guitar, of course. Glenda is similarly irresistible, upbeat and seductive. The Cuban feel on this one is palpable. Jazz Tumbata is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most "jazz" of all the tracks, with jazz piano and bass taking centre stage. The final track, Relax, has another of those bass lines all over it. So, there we are, forty-odd minutes of top notch jazz and Latin fusion. Forty minutes is probably sufficient, but it is certainly a highly recommendable forty minutes.
One track that doesn't quite come off for me, however, is Once In A Lifetime. The album's most commercial track and my least favourite doesn't quite get there, sounding a bit too fussy and cluttered. Also, the thing that gave the song a lot of is appeal was David Byrne's vocal, paranoid quirkiness. Kidjo has none of that in her delivery. That is splitting hairs a little, however, as it is still eminently listenable, more for its music than its lyrics, whereas the original was the other way around. The beguiling Houses In Motion is given a staccato, bassy and different makeover, featuring some ethnic language parts (Yoruba?). This one works well, with a completely infectious rhythm-beat. Listen to those authentic West African horns too. The lyrically mysterious, spoken Seen And Not Seen is given a vibrant, thumping new life by Kidjo. The David Byrne spoken bits, perplexing as they are, now sound hauntingly voodoo-esque in Kidjo's hands. The album's cover has echoes of that too. The end of the song breaks out into an uplifting glorious piece of choral majesty. The same can be said of Listening Wind. As on all of the tracks, all the vocal call-and-response is there, but emphasised even more. The vocals are truly amazing throughout, check out the bass and addictive percussion on here too. These three tracks are all really impressive. The sombre, always incongruous post-punk gloom of The Overload is another that doesn't quite come off, though. It has no need for Kidjo's rousing vocals. Still, six out of eight corkers ain't half bad.
This had the potential to be a disaster, attempting to cover such an iconic, unique album like this, but it is the very opposite. It is a refreshing triumph. It is possible for both albums to co-exist, bouncing off each other but they can also flourish separately and that says it all.
From the mid-late sixties, popularised by The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones and The Beatles' George Harrison in particular (Paint It, Black and Within You Without You being the classic examples, of course), it was fashionable to utilise traditional Indian-Eastern instruments such as the sitar, the tabla and the harmonium and/or employ Indian musicians to play them on albums. This album was one of the first extensions of the Eastern music-psychedelic rock fusion, making a whole album of it - merging traditional Eastern sounds with rock ones. It is quite a heady mix and the album was a success. Here we had Shankar's sitar combining with moog synthesiser and Eastern-influenced, often frantic percussion. It started a trend in what became known as "raga-rock".
"Side one" can be viewed as more of the "fusion" side, while "side two" was the more traditional one. Some have argued that it is the traditional stuff that should have populated the whole album. Personally, I think that misses the point. I love Jumpin' Jack Flash and Light My Fire done in this way.
Check out these artists and compilations too, including the legendary Fela Kuti (click on the images) :-
|Fela Kuti||Brazilian Music||Rough Guides|