Various Artists

Putumayo Presents the Best of World, Vol. 1: World Vocal

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A compilation from Putumayo dealing primarily with vocal works, although much of the work is very instrumental as well. Appearing here are multiple stars of different traditions. The great Jorge Ben (famous in the U.S. primarily for "Mas Que Nada," popularized by Sergio Mendes) shows up to sing a song praising soccer great Pele. Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata" is also present, a happy song about a dance. Johnny Clegg and Juluka (Savuka before the departure of Sipho Mchunu) contribute a wonderfully clear vocal work on "Walima 'Mbele," a warning against inter-tribal fighting during droughts in South Africa. The wonderful Samite of Uganda shows off his prowess on the kalimba in "Munomuno." Even the incredibly old Jolly Boys resurfaces from the tourist hotels of Jamaica to contribute a nice piece of mento (Jamaican calypso of sorts). To finish off the album, Costa Rican Jorge Strunz and Iranian Ardeshir Farah combine for a vaguely flamenco sound on "Americas," a song exhorting the masses to respect the native traditions of North and South America; and a love song from King Sunny Ade's former bass player Ken Okulolo and Kotoja. Overall, a surprising clear and well worked album from Putumayo, seeming to deal less with the mainstream Starbucks sound they tend to fall into from time to time. While it's labeled as a vocal album, the instrumental virtuosos here are really the highlight. Pick it up for an amazing run of guitars, kalimbas, and more.

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