Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: African Groove

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This is a collection of African techno-informed tracks bearing the fruits of both ends of the tradition spectrum. Traditional percussion and string elements thrive among a thick layer of multi-formed electronica. The album opens with breakout artist Issa Bagayogo and his blend of Malian ngoni playing with electronic beats. The Coulibaly family mixes some fine balofon playing with a deep bass kick and some house beats, and Madeka provides a piece of pseudo-Kidjo with the help of a collection of other artists. Julien Jacob mixes some straightforward acoustic guitar with electronic bits while singing in a completely invented and non-translatable language without assigned meaning. The Zimbabwean group Peace of Ebony shows off a bit of slick rapping and Afro-pop influenced heavily by the Paris scene, and Hardstone reuses a Keith Sweat track as a base for some capable rapping. Positive Black Soul continues the African rap aesthetic, now with an influence of the Dakar studio scene, and Dady Mimbo pumps out something between Euro-dance and dub. The decidedly non-African Thievery Corporation shows off a track of organic electronica with a definite African sound, and Italian Pleb provides a remix of an old Touré Kunda track. The funky African Rhythm Travellers provide a piece of busy fusion containing a good deal of funk along with their usual reggae and dub, as well as the proper dose of electronica. Finally, the album finishes on Lucky Dube's find Ndumiso, who invokes Hugh Masekela on his trumpet and brings the sound back a few years to the time of the normal jazz and funk revolution (pre-electronica). The album on the whole is an outstanding mix of the old with the new and should give those tired of the usual African cultural troupes something worthwhile to listen to. Newcomers to the sounds of Africa should also be pleasantly surprised by how far the continent has come in its fusion with the modern sounds of the West, mirroring the West's fascination with the sounds of Africa. Give it a few listens to make sure you don't miss anything.

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