Papa Noel / Papi Oviedo

Bana Congo

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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson

There's always been a strong link between Cuban music and Congolese rhumba -- over the years the two have influenced each other in countless ways. African guitarist Papa Noel was always one of the more Cuban-leaning of the rhumba virtuosos, which makes this pairing with Cuba's Papa Oviedo a perfectly natural mix. Not only does it show the similarities between West Africa and Afro-Cuban music, but it showcases two scintillating players and singers, whether on the gorgeous ballad "Juliana" (which slips effortlessly in double time at the end) or the swinging "Oye; Sabroso Son." It's more about the connections than the differences and the complex polyrhythms at the heart of the music -- just try keeping time to "Molimo," for example. The guitar work, though understated, is spectacular in its taste and economy; the vocals are gloriously laid-back but soulful; and the arrangements are careful to let the stars shine. All in all it's a thing of beauty, with every single second a pure joy.

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