Saturday, March 24, 2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - African Pearls 4 - Senegal: The Teranga Spirit (Discograph/Syllart)

At this rate, some of us are going to need a second mortgage. We’re already up to volume four of this informative series of recordings from the vaults of Africa’s renowned producer Ibrahima Sylla, and the high standard is retained with this latest batch of treasures.
As with the previous two editions (Guinea and Mali), the first half of this double-CD collection is drawn from Senegal’s traditional repertoire, and as such the recordings make no concession to Western influences or production values. Covering the period after Senegal’s independence (from 1960 to the early ‘70s), these earlier tracks are the embodiment of music as spiritual and emotional catharsis, with raw, unadorned instrumentation (usually a plucked instrument such as the xalam [Wolof lute] or kora) and rudimentary percussion supporting vocal performances which range from the declamatory to the downright scary.
From the unearthly holler of Wolof singer Aminata Fall, through Mahawa Kouyaté’s ghostly vocal accompanied by master kora player Soundioulou Cissokho, to the coarse tone of the xalam and balafon on Fa Mbaye Issa Diop’s impassioned Diegoye, it’s all challenging but entrancing fare.
After a brief lie down, you’ll be ready to take a pleasant journey through the more accessible Latin-influenced music from the early ‘60s up to the cusp of the explosion of modern styles that prompted the decline in popularity of the Afro-Cuban music in the late ‘70s.
It’s all there on the second CD – the interweaving electric guitar lines, loping beat, languid bass grooves, groovy brass sections and soulful singing by many of the best artists from the period. There are three marvellous tracks from Orchestra Baobab, including the original version of Dée Moo Wóor (originally titled Aduna Jarul Naawo), with Baobab forefathers the Star Band’s sparkling 1973 hit Simbonbon another hip-shaking highlight, as is the Star International Band’s smartly funky version of the Celina Gonzalez standard Santa Barbara. In fact, it’s consistently appealing throughout, from the prolific Pape Seck to the Guelewar Band (who were originally from Gambia), whose Wallou! is a sprawling slab of gritty soul that could have come straight out of early ‘70s New York.
Another delightful document for African music addicts.
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