African Pearls number...difficult to keep up – nine or ten is it?...takes us back for some more of the dense Cubano-to-mbalax dance music of the mid-1970s that crept into the earlier, more earthy and folkloric collection in this series, Teranga Spirit and then broke forth on the excellent Sénégal 70 – Musical Effervescence. Featured here are many of the stellar acts that represent the apogee of urban Senegal’s vibrant mbalax scene. Star Band, Youssou (how clear, how pristine that voice was even in the early days), Ifang Bondi and Super Diamono are the headline acts on what is probably the best of the Senegal collections in the series so far. As an introduction to the sabar-thwacking polyrhythm, meaty guitar lines that ripple out in all sorts of ear-grabbing sonic directions, oh-so-seventies keyboard wigs-out and thumping brass that took this nation on a great musical leap forward, you probably couldn’t wish for more. It’s good to see Orchestre Guelewar de Banjul amongst the choices. Originally hailing from Gambia, on Wartef Jigen they exemplify the gritty, urban soul that speaks so redolently of the urbanisation of the West African musical milieu at the time.
As with all of these carefully-chosen, well-annotated and informative rounds-up of Ibrama Sylla's golden-era Syliphone productions, Echo Musical comes highly recommended for all those who are interested in the gold-dust days of West African popular music. And this one, rich as it is in some of the cherry-picked tracks from some of the best albums of the era, goes down as the best starting point yet for this possibly never-to-be-bettered period for Senegalese music.