Saturday, January 27, 2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Urban Africa Club (Out Here)

What a daunting challenge, trying to cover the best of the new generation of young artists from the hip-hop, kwaito and dancehall scenes across a continent as large and diverse as Africa. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s the esteemed journalist and broadcaster Jay Rutledge and his Munich-based Out Here records.
These are the big players of the scene, with none of the traditional gravitas normally associated with our African heroes, but with a clout that has their records played and bought by millions, with the attendant material lifestyles experienced by their equivalents in the Western world.
With the fourteen tracks covering nine countries - from Tanzanian bongo flava in the East, via Sene-rap in the West to South Africa’s chart-tapping kwaito music - the range of this sampler is admirably broad.
Tanzania has the largest representation with three tracks, reflecting a vibrant scene that sits well alongside the thriving roots music scene. The hip-hop stars Xplastaz are here (once again represented by the ubiquitous, bouncy Msimu Kwa Msimu), which contrasts well with the fresh, poppier bongo flava of the irresistible ‘Mikasi’ by Mangwea and the Swahili hip-hop smash Nikusaidije by Professor Jay. Staying in the East, two of the highlights on the CD come from Kenya. Necessary Noize - a girl/boy duo - produce some hook-laden reggaeton hip-hop, and Gidigidimajimaji’s bouncy beats have gone massive down in the growing urban scene in South Africa, being uncannily similar to the kwaito of Zola, who opens this collection.
Over in the West, Ghana’s King Ayisoba features MOBO award-winner Batman, and VIP calls his music hiplife, although neither of these muscular raps bear relation to the hi-life for which that country is renowned. And Senegal continues to come up with the goods - this time with Alif, the first female rap group to come out of the country, and the former Positive Black Soul leader Awadi, whose mix of social consciousness and coupé décalé is a perfect way to both sum up and close a very rewarding and ear-opening collection from the modern African ‘hood.

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