Various Artists

Africa, Mother of the Blues

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There's little doubt that African rhythms form the underlying energy that drives the blues, which, by default, makes Africa the mother of the style, as the title of this brief sampler from Cantos Records states. But it's a two-way street, and the personalization of the blues by Afro-American musicians into both a singular and collective statement on the hard facts of life in a world that is seldom, if ever, fair and just has made an impact in Africa, too, making the blues as a form not so much a dialogue between continents as it is an ongoing transformation and exercise in utility, whatever the country of origin. That said, don't expect "woke up this morning" songs here, as most of these tracks unwind with an awareness of the Afro-American blues style rather than as an actual approximation of it, although songs here like "Marie Lo" by Senegal's Ismaël Lô, full of lonely displacement and sung to guitar and harmonica accompaniment, come close. Truthfully, there is as much Western pop influence going on here as there is a direct blues influence, and that is probably a good thing, creating a distinctly fresh hybrid in songs like Guinean Sekouba Bambino's haunting "Djougouya" (which features Jean Jacques Milteau on harmonica) and Boubacar Traore of Mali's impressive "Diarabi."

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