Various Artists

Congo to Cuba

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The rhythms originated in West Africa and originally traveled to Cuba on the slave ships. Since then the music has gone back and forth across the Atlantic countless times, changing slightly on each occasion. This well-composed compilation shows how much Africa and Cuba have in common, kicking off with a smoking "Val Carretero" from Cuba's Chico Alvarez, before moving to Guinea for Mama Sissoko's "Safiatou," where guitar, rather than horns, takes the instrumental lead. And while the emphasis here is more on Africa than Cuba, that's fine; the music is glorious, most especially the winning voice of Mama Keita on "Tougnafo," a singer who'll be a major discovery to a lot of people. There might not be Senegal's Orchestra Baobab, which is an oversight given their status as one of Africa's leading Cuban-influenced bands, but in some ways that's good. By using artists who've had little Western exposure, the focus remains on the music, rather than the name, such as Balla Tounkara's kora-inflected "Le Monde Est Fou." It's a transatlantic journey -- but you won't get seasick on this.

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