Various Artists

Africa Vision, Vol. 1: 1975-2005 - Francophone African Cinema

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Buda's latest series in its excellent overview of African music has an intriguing but enjoyably broad brief, covering nearly three decades of songs featured in French-language African films. The colonial legacy of France in the continent was widespread, from Algeria to Madagascar, and as a result this disc has an equally far-reaching range, with performances covering everything from French performers who have worked extensively with African musicians to legendary figures in their respective countries who have been performing for decades, in some cases. The resultant mix is a treasure, starting with Mokhtar Samba's "Ouaga Saga," a mélange of jazz fusion, hip-hop and African vocals that was the theme song to a film about young soccer players, and ending with Jean Odoutan's "Petit a Petit," a sweet, flute-led number that, appropriately, feels like a gentle conclusion. Singling out further individual songs almost defeats the purpose -- nearly each one has something compelling about it, though a few are more enjoyably pleasant than striking, but highlights certainly abound. Sami Rama's bravura vocals, shifting from the sweet to the passionately growling in a heartbeat on "Afriqui B ii?," E. Bandora's mysterious, whispered performance on "Inanga," named after the traditional string instrument he plays, and Nema Mint Choueikh's haunting duet with Mamma Mint Lekbeib on "Yallali." Perhaps the best is an astonishing instrumental by Patrick Abrial, "Le Grand Blanc de Lambarene," the title song to the film of the same name, jumping from serene keyboard patterns to high speed drumming and brief vocal drop-ins, all without losing the core flow of the song. As is to be expected with Buda's compilations, the quality of the liner notes is quite high, discussing not only each individual performer but providing details of the films that the songs appeared in, making it an excellent resource for the curious on both musical and cinematic fronts.

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