Ellipsis Arts
World, Worldbeat, Afro-Pop, World Fusion, Juju, Rai, Rumba, Chimurenga, Mbaqanga, Mbuti Choral, Early Pop/Rock, Soukous, North African, Mbira, Morna, Central African, African Folk, Cuban Traditions, Mbalax, Southern African, African Traditions, West African, Bombara

Album Review

Cashing in on widespread exposure to African music via high-profile supporters like Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, most compilations of contemporary African music suffer from insufficient size, narrow focus, or poor selection. Against this background, Africa: Never Stand Still stands as tall as a Masai warrior. In three hours of top-notch performances, this set spans from the Sahara to Cape Town, from Ghana to Kenya and everywhere in between, plus peripheral areas such as Madagascar and Mauritania. If there's a shortcoming, it's the lack of historical dimension that comes of relying on recordings made near the date of release. But this is a minor complaint -- three years later, the music still has a freshness lacking in the products of the Western pop mainstream.
Predictably, most of this is groove music. What makes it special -- aside from its sheer variety and the obvious delight the performers take in playing -- is twofold: lithe rhythms that seep into your heart and feet and, at the same time, a lightness of touch that's been absent from American and British popular music since jazz gave way to rock & roll. Most of the cuts are lengthy two- or three-chord jams in the modern mold: drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, brass, and voices. But the indigenous sounds of the kora (harp), sanza (thumb piano), balafon (xylophone), and goge (violin) are never far away, and compiler Brooke Wentz went out of the way to include ensembles playing in more traditional styles. (Check out the fluttering Gambian kora orchestra, produced by Bill Laswell and Foday Musa Suso.)
Familiar names abound: South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Senegal's Youssou N'Dour, Ali Farka Toure and Salif Keita from Mali, Farafina from Burkina Faso, and many others. (Curiously missing are juju master King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the continent's closest equivalent to James Brown.) These artists are extraordinary enough, but many standout cuts come from artists you'll be hard-pressed to find in the import bin: the Bedouin rai of Algeria's Bellemou & Gana El Maghnaoui; the hypnotic Gnawa Musicians of Marrakesh; the laidback highlife of Ghana's Martin K. Obeng; Gabriel Omolo's off-kilter Kenyan twist.
If nothing else, these three CDs prove Brian Eno's contention that Africa is brimming with contemporary music as valid as any made in the West. And if the quality of this compilation is any indication, it won't be many more years before everyone knows it.
Ted Greenwald, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Ndiri Bofu
  2. Kipenda
  3. Rokoto Frenzy [Excerpt]
  4. Eh Zalahy
  5. Ngingenwe Emoyeni
  6. Milouda
  7. Heygana
  8. Kumbusora
  9. Za Ayi Neyi
  10. Refined Fuji Garbage [Excerpt]
  11. Jino la Pembe
  12. Six Mabone
  13. Tsiketa Kuni Barassara
  14. Rondomori
  15. Mariama
  16. Nazingi Maboko
  17. Allah Ma Diana
  18. Ngoma Ngairire (Let the Drum Sing/Celebrate)
  19. Angola Na Paz
  20. Ah Ndiya
  21. Bassama
  22. M'Fono Yami
  23. Mhondoro
  24. Wonda Wonda
  25. Hassaniya Song for Dancing
  26. Tuni Nyamwalo
  27. Saï
  28. Sawura Wako
  29. Lanaya
  30. Nyanafin
  31. Fakastalu
  32. Worio Wata
  33. Baba l'Rouami
  34. Agor
  35. Omo Mbo/Omo Lere Aiye/Ha Egbe Mi Wo Asia [Medley]
  36. Wed Today Divorce Tomorrow
  37. Bayeza
  38. Rosine
  39. Mariquinha