Worldbeat fans, pay attention: the Embassadors' debut CD is definitely worth spending quality time with. The brainchild of Burnt Friedman collaborator Hayden Chisholm, Healing the Music delivers a convincing dose of groovy African-inspired dub and acoustic Latin-African fusion. The star of the album is Kenyan singer Michel Ongaru, credited as a guest (let's hope he becomes a fixture in the group). Ongaru's warm and soulful voice is what gives life to Chisholm's songs. The music is more introspective than festive, even yearning at times, as in "Chema Chajiuza," an African-style gospel, or "Mwanangu (For Maxim)," a heartfelt lament. Chisholm slips in a couple of tender sax lines, but his role throughout the album remains at the level of the multi-instrumentalist mastermind who pulls all the strings but doesn't really put himself under the spotlight. The album's only weakness is its shortness of breath. Clocking in at two seconds under the 40-minute mark, the track list includes two alternate versions ("Tenda Wema" is included in regular and dub versions; "Nia Njia" is given a remix), and certain tracks use similar riffs or chord progressions. The first half of the album is very homogeneous in style, while the second half sees the Embassadors playing around more with tempos and influences (the laid-back "Mwanangu," the dub leanings of "Wimbo Wa Wana," and "Tenda Wema Dub"). With a bit more material, and bigger differences between songs, Healing the Music would have made an excellent and endearing record. As it stands, it still makes for a satisfying listen that will leave you craving for more and send you hunting down Ongaru's own albums.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture