Buena Vista Social Club- Angelique Kidjo- Mbongwana Star- More

Angelique Kidjo

429 Records

This album presents Kidjo like she's never been heard before as she's backed not by a pop band but by The Luxumbourg Philharmonic. That means that, when called for, all of the African flavorings come not from the music, but from the Benin native's beautiful voice. And what a voice it is; on "Malaika" she's mostly sweet as a flower but there's a point in the song where she shows her range by dropping down into a bluesy growl for a brief moment. "Ominira" is a cinematic voyage to a breezy Continental setting that also incorporates background vocals that sound like something that Kate Bush would do, and "Petite Fleur" places Kidjo squarely in a Parisian nightclub circa 1930. Fans of Kidjo already know she has a magnificent voice but they'll likely be completely blown away by this offering.

Buena Vista Social Club
Lost and Found

World Circuit

With many of the core members of this band now deceased, fans probably thought there was no more BVSC music to be had. Alas the vaults have been scoured to put together this odds-and-sods collection featuring great stuff like "Bodas De Oro," an unreleased cut featuring the late pianist Ruben Gonzalez that is also one of the last recordings he played on, and three live cuts featuring the silky vocals of the also passed Ibrahim Ferrer. Other tracks spotlight the work of Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo, Cachaito Lopez and Miguel "Anga" Diaz. Until Americans can freely travel to Cuba and discover other Cuban talents it's nice to have this (possibly) one last taste from the masters.

Mbongwana Star
From Kinshasa

World Circuit/Nonesuch

This Congolese band just formed recently but they are hardly beginners; Coco Ngambali and Theo Nzonza of Staff Benda Bilili are members and Tony Allen associate Doctor L also plays on the album. The record opens with a delightful slice of African psychedelic music in "From Kinshasa to the Moon," and while "Shegue" and "Nganshe" are more traditionally-based, they also are doctored up with trippy effects. "Coco Blues" is slow and dreamy and an appropriate nightcap while "Suzanna" is the band's pulsing take on EDM. Those who like their African music on the adventurous side will be thrilled with From Kinshasa.

Seckou Keita
22 Strings

Arc Music

Keita is a kora (West African harp) player from Senegal and the album title refers to the fact that Keita plays a kora with 22 strings when the instrument normally only has 21. String count aside, this album of mostly instrumentals gives the listener a real chance to hear the beauty of the instrument as Keita plays in a style that will appeal to fans of fingerpicked folk music perhaps more so than fans of African music. An exception and album highlight is the vocal number "If Only I Knew," which is sung in an African dialect despite its English title. Keita does some speedy playing on "Mande," another vocal number, and the listener can only wonder how many of the 22 strings he utilizes on the sublime song. Much African music is meant to be danced to but 22 Strings is made for a chilled out listening session.

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