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Miriam Makeba: Africa 50 set


world’s greatest monolithic anthology and guide to the last half-century of African music is not quite authoritative. 66 years, not 50.


Other problems arise. In these quantum- tilted days we are used to instant and intu- itive connections. Our reactions are quicker and less readily impressed by hierarchy and organisation. So a great monolith like this, an attempt to authoritatively present half a cen- tury of wildly multifarious African music, seems already old-fashioned in its urge to corral, classify and categorise. Because, final- ly – whatever gloss applied, despite the less- than-literate essays in the explanatory book- let – it’s not really socially scientific.


Actually, it’s somebody’s Desert Island


Discs. And that somebody, largely, is Ibrahima Sylla, the Senegalese doyen of West African producers. And what does he select? Right first time. A preponderance of Francophone Africa, with ex-Portuguese territories getting more than their share.


The most important of the anthology’s omissions, though there are more, is juju. Indeed, there are only three tracks from Nige- ria as against six from Senegal, and no less than eight from Cape Verde. Many classic Sylla productions feature, e.g. African Typ- ique Collection by Sam Fan Thomas (here wrongly named Fantomas, like the French cartoon character). There’s Youssou doing Immigrés, Salif Keita and Mandjou, Baaba Maal’s Yiiri Yalo, Mory Kante’s Yeke Yeke, Orchestre Baobab, and so on. And, to com- pound the crime of sloppy spelling, Miriam Makeba is repeatedly misnamed as Myriam as she yet again belts out Pata Pata.


The songs are subdivided geographically in groups of three CDs – North, East, South, West and Central Africa, with a separate set of three for Lusophone Africa (again, logical taxonomy falters). North Africa stands some- what separate, a whole huge desert away, but linked. It’s fascinating to consider the connections, using the anthology as a sort of telephone exchange. Youssou N’Dour and Fela stressed their connections with Egypt, and we can ask why Oum Kalsoum and Miri- am Makeba should be in the same antholo- gy –well, the link is Bi Kudude from Zanz- ibar. Sam Mangwana links Angola with the Congo. Zee Makassy links Congolese rumba


with East African styles. If anything had been included from Zambia we’d have seen how the Congolese influence affected this coun- try too. But we don’t.


Why not? Zambia’s kalindula is too good and special to be passed over. Woe accrues with the tinny awfulness of some modern Tunisian music, though not all. Glee arrives with the clear-headed energy of East Africa. Ethiopia gets a lot of tracks, and quite right too. Ludicrously, the speck-like Comoros Islands contribute more tracks than Nigeria. And nothing by Habib Koite, Simentera, Eyu- phuro, Ayub Ogada or Waldemar Bastos. Tell you who is there, though – the great Cameroonian Manu Dibango. As well as sup- plying Soul Makossa – included here, of course, as in every other known anthology of African music –we learn it was he who arranged Grand Kalle’s Independence Cha Cha in 1955. There at the start, still at it today. They could have put his face on the cover.


www.sternsmusic.com Rick Sanders VARIOUS ARTISTS


Roots Of Chicha 2 – Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru Barbès Records / Crammed Discs CRAW 73


How much tropical twang can I take? Well, how much do you want to throw my way? Hot on the heels of Vampisoul’s double Cumbia Beat compilation (reviewed last issue) comes a follow-up to the one that launched the rebirth of interest in Peruvian chicha in the first place. 2007’s Roots Of Chicha was compiled by Olivier Conan, leader of revivalist band Chicha Libre, head honcho of the Barbès label and general cool French guy about New York City. The first volume focused on Amazonian guitar bands from the 1960s and ‘70s and sparked a revival of inter- est not only globally but back in Peru, where chicha had long been ignored due to its low- life working-class origins.


For volume two, Conan draws on a simi- lar time period and twangy guitar style, but shifts the emphasis over towards the urban chicha bands that emerged from the slums of Lima, in part (as he explains in the CD book-


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