Various Artists

Kenya Dance Mania: East Africa's Finest Rumbas & Other Styles

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At the end of the '80s, rhumba music from Kenya was favored in dance clubs all over East Africa. Kenya Dance Mania is a fine collection of singles that were regionally popular during this period, focusing primarily on upbeat dancehall numbers. In most cases, the song follows a two-part pattern in which the lyrics are sung first, followed by a more intense instrumental section. But what is notable about almost all of these songs is not their intensity, but the gentle insistence of the rhythms (all of which push rather than pound) and the melancholy beauty of the melodies. Les Wanyika's "Sina Makosa" is one example, a shimmeringly lovely denial of infidelity accompanied by complexly interwoven guitar parts and a Latin-flavored horn section; another is "Lunch Time" by Gabriel Omolo & His Apollo Komesha, on which an irresistibly elastic beat is bolstered by an almost pointillistic bassline and vinegary vocal harmonies. Along with Guitar Paradise of East Africa (also on the Earthworks label), this makes an excellent introduction to the pop music of Kenya.

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