Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya & Tanzania

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A strong sampling of the popular and traditional music of these East African coastal neighbors, this covers most of the waterfront, although at least three omissions are worth noting -- the great Hukwe Zawose from Tanzania, probably the country's greatest living traditional musician, singer Remmy Ongala, and Kenya's Ayub Ogada, who's gone on to become quite a name on the European world music circuit. Get past that, however, and there's plenty to go at. The Victoria Kings provide some driving benga music, perfectly typical of Kenya's most popular sound, while Simba Wanyika offers his personal take on the Swahili rumba he played for more than two decades. Singer Samba Mapangala has the title cut to his 1996 album Vunja Mifupa, with some fabulous guitar work and horns behind Kenya's greatest modern voice. From their own country, Mlimani Park Orchestra offer a quintessential Tanzanian dance music experience, with three guitars, horns, and some exquisite vocal harmonies propelling traditional melodies for an irresistible fusion. There's a strong Swahili culture (Taarab) across the countries, and stretching into Zanzibar, and this compilation does achieve balance by having that represented from the Culture Music Club (who do actually hail from Zanzibar) and Mombasa's Zein Musical Party. So while it may not be the all-inclusive album to do full justice to the region, it remains an excellent introduction, which was always the aim.

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