There is usually at least one essential Rough Guide album each year. This year’s first major contender is one that explores the diversity of one of East Africa’s musical powerhouses. This is a remarkably wide-ranging collection expertly assembled by Werner Graebner, nicely showcasing a full spread of recent Tanzanian sounds from rap to pop via big band dance music to the rootsy kibati music and traditional taarab music of Zanzibar.The Vijana Jazz Band get us under way with a sound which will be very familiar to those used to the sinuous guitar interplay, spiky brass and tight vocal harmonies of much Tanzanian large-ensemble music. This appealing formula is repeated to good effect elsewhere by the popular Mlimani Park Orchestra and the veteran Ottu Jazz Band. Congolese ex-patriots Ndala Kasheba complete a quartet of songs guaranteed to enliven any party, with their irresistible rumba Nimlilie Nani?
Dovetailing with those tracks is a song with a delicately light, Congolese acoustic feel from Saida Karoli. She is one of the best, most soulful female singers in Tanzania, and her slow, subtle prompting is interesting to compare with the harder edged modern R ‘n’ B of Dataz with her streetwise rap about girls with married boyfriends, and the classy Maasai-influenced hip-hop of X Plastaz.
Ikhwani Safaa Music Club represents the traditional acoustic orchestra side of taarab, with a rousing rendition of Vingaravyo, and the compiler has unearthed a real gem in a more modern take on the form by Mohammed Issa Matona. It works superbly, as acoustic and understated electronic interplay underpin some tender call-and-response vocals.
A blast from the past from the Master Musicians of Tanzania, featuring the late Hukwe Zawose’s masterfully atmospheric marimba playing, and the raw, percussive kibati feel of Nia Safi and Imani Ngoma Group completes what is a wonderful and winning collection of tunes.
This review was first published on Fly:-