Songlines, June 08
“Around Africa in two-and-a-half hours”
Starting with the song that introduced millions of people to Youssou N’Dour, if not African music – ‘7 Seconds’ by Youssou and Neneh Cherry – this massive compilation of West African sounds has pretty much got it covered. The mid-90s chart-topper leads into Guinea’s plinking Bembeya Jazz. There are Malian guitars aplenty, Senegal’s godfathers of salsa, Orchestra Baobab, Benin’s Angélique Kidjo, some modern Nigerian Afro-beat from the indomitable Femi Kuti and ‘Soul Makossa’ by Cameroonian Manu Dibango, the song that went on to influence both Michael Jackson and rapper Jay-Z. While there are some predictable bands at the party, there are also some guests that will probably be unknown to many, making this an album for all tastes. A third of the tracks are given over to Mali, perhaps a reflection of where non-African record labels like to focus their attention, but Guinea-Bissau, an area often overlooked, gets a slot with the fabulous Super Mama Djombo and their timeless celebration sound. Ghana’s high-energy Captain Yaba also gets to rock the party with his track ‘Yaba Funk’ and Ba Cissoko, the new face of kora music, completes the guest-list. It’s a big compilation, stretched across two discs, but definitely does what it says on the label.