Various Artists

National Geographic: Destination Caribbean

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Another in a series of releases that explore unique intersections of culture and music throughout the world, Destination Caribbean is a National Geographic article for both the eyes and the ears. Its exquisite, full-color packaging includes a historical time line of the region, a map with a legend denoting locations significant to West Indian culture, a history of major Caribbean musical catalog instruments and cultural movements, and biographies of the contributing artists. Musically, the collection presents the Afrocentric tradition as it exists in the Caribbean, from reggae and calypso sounds to lesser-known styles like zouk and fungi. While the inclusion of Bob Marley in collections of this sort can seem hackneyed, Marley did single-handedly transform modern reggae, which makes his presence both important and necessary. Fortunately, however, Destination Caribbean's producers didn't take the easy way out with one of Marley's world-famous hits. A grooving version of his "Soul Rebel" is included here, as is a tasteful remix of "Don't Rock My Boat" from Mark Pistel. The production of both songs suggests also the dub tradition of the islands. Elsewhere, David Rudder and Lord Pretender submit pleasant-enough takes on calypso, and Gregory Isaacs' "Red Rose for Gregory" is representative of his romantic vocal style. But perhaps the most interesting parts of Destination Caribbean are the selections that present some of the lesser-known styles populating the vibrant Antillean musical landscape. The effervescent groove of IGM's "No Problem" made them superstars in their native Curacao; its suggestive lyrics and sultry kadans beat was watered down with great success by American pop stars like Shaggy. Kali's "Alfa Yaya" mixes the rhythms of the pan-African pop music sensation zouk with reggae, funk, and traditional sounds from Martinique. Destination Caribbean also includes merengue from the Dominican Republic, the reggae-rock fungi of British Virgin Islands-based Lashing Dogs, African-inflected street music from Trinidad and Tobago, and the powerful vocals of Barbados' Allison Hinds (the soca "Controller"). The only thing the collection lacks is a full-fledged dub plate by one of the genre's masters, like Lee "Scratch" Perry or King Tubby.

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