Various Artists

Edition Pierre Verger: Africa - From Dakar to Johannesburg

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Collecting pieces from the various items in the old Sunset-France catalogs, Edition Pierre Verger: Africa -- From Dakar to Johannesburg takes a stab at going around the whole of sub-Saharan African music in one album. Needless to say, that's a bit much. As such, the focus is largely on West African (Mali, Senegal, etc) and Central African (primarily Congolese), with a bit of South African tossed in here and there. The mood moves back and forth from high to low, fast to slow, as the music moves from country to country. Represented though are griot music from the Malian empire and further west, contemporary music from Burkina Faso and Senegal, precursors to soukous from Congo, some isicathamiya from South Africa, and a small load of pieces from the Drummers of Burundi, a relatively successful ensemble featured on some RealWorld recordings. The music is generally well performed, with some especially nice and refreshing takes from the likes of Boni Gnahore, Mamany Kouyate (a singer from the National Ballets du Mali), and the Bana Kin percussion group from D.R. Congo. The only real issue with the album is the lack of coherence, or of a story. There are so many cultures and musical idioms represented here, it makes for a schizoid sampler, rather than a singular compilation. Nonetheless, it makes for a decent stepping stone for those entirely new to African music, and holds a few nice surprises for the initiated.

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