Roberto Delgado

African Dancing

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African music was not completely new to Western audiences in 1971. August Msarurgwa's "Skokiaan" had been a big hit for Louis Armstrong, among others, back in 1955, and "Wimoweh," retitled "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," had been a hit record on three separate occasions, by the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, and finally the Tokens in 1961. But in 1971 African music was definitely having a popular resurgence in the U.S. and Europe -- highly regarded jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela had a huge hit with "Grazing in the Grass," and Harry Belafonte's introduction of the stunning Miriam Makeba to television audiences had whet the public appetite. It was obviously a good time for Roberto Delgado and producer Udo Bowien to tackle the theme, and so they did, with predictable good cheer and attention to detail. African music is defined by exotic percussion, and it is served up here: tom toms, drums, kabassas, gurken, tambourines, cow bells, and chains all add beat and backbeat to an engaging overview of the African contribution to pop music up until that date. The band tackles much of the material with exuberance, particularly "Patatalo," Makeba's "Pata Pata," and the Masekela hit; also nice are a shuffling version of "Skokiaan" and a perky "Tara Din Din." The album, as most of Delgado's, has weak moments: the one original, "African Call," is a riff in search of a melody, and the band sleepwalks through the tired "Wimoweh." Still those are quibbles, easy to overlook given the overall quality of the work and the expectations of his audience, which makes African Dancing a reasonably pleasant addition to the Delgado collection.

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