Orchestra Baobab- Amine & Hamza- Las Cafeteras
It has been nearly ten years since this Senegalese band put out an album; now they return to pay homage to their late band mate who passed last year, singer Ndiouga Dieng. The band is known for their fusion of African and Cuban rhythms and that's exactly what's on tap on album opener "Foulo," a mid-tempo dance number. "Fayinkounko" on the other hand is distinctly West African while "Natalia" has a Continental vibe. "Mariama" is an album highlight; the slow and mournful tune has only sparse accompaniment, allowing the vocals to be especially emotive. Former band member Thione Seck reunites with Orchestra Baobab for a version of his first solo hit "Sey" and the song has all the hallmarks the group is known for: a sexy Latin rhythm punctuated by sax riffs, a West African melody and romantic vocals, all of which urge the listener to dance or at least move and groove. Fans of Afro-Cuban music will love this album and the band has certainly crafted a lasting tribute to Dieng.
Amine & Hamza and the Band Beyond Borders - Fertile Paradoxes
Amine and Hamza M'raihi are brothers and native Tunisians currently living in Switzerland. Both are masters of the oud and another Middle Eastern stringed instrument called the kanun, and there is sublime and also frenetic picking on show throughout, including on the lengthy jam (over 10-minutes) "Spleen" which also features famed Indian singer Kaushiki Chakraborty. Other band members hail from France, and the truly international makeup of the band means that these jazzy Arabian melodies can surprise and take an unexpected side road, and that makes the more than hour long journey all the more enjoyable.
Las Cafeteras - Tastes Like L.A.
This band from East Los Angeles has a sound that is rooted in Mexican folk music but lead singer Denise Carlos has a bright, effervescent voice that's perfect for pop songs and it's likely that anyone within earshot would follow her to the water when she coyly urges "Vamos to the Beach." She also sounds good on an understated reading of the folk chestnut "This Land is Your Land," understated that is until the song turns into a piρata-cracking rave-up mid-song. "Apache" is soulful and carefree pop but there's a social conscious to Tastes Like L.A. too; "If I Were President" features vocalist Hector Flores rapping thoughts on social change, including the notion that kids should have free bikes to "ride to their future" and buy "chips with no GMOs." Nothing gets too heavily political though as Las Cafeteras make having a good time the primary goal here.