Various Artists

Spirit of Africa [Real World]

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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson

There's no shortage of African compilations, and no shortage of good causes that need support. Spirit of Africa puts the two together, raising money for AIDS charity Mercury Phoenix Trust. Africa has suffered horribly from AIDS and will long continue to suffer, and could certainly use the help. The intention is a good one; it's a shame the album isn't quite so wonderful. Other African compilations have opened a window on music not easily available in the West; this opts for an easier route, working heavily with catalog material from releasing label Real World. To be fair, there are a few unreleased cuts, with Mzwakhe Mbuli's "Kulusizi Emhalbeni" a particular standout, and a couple of remixes -- Paul Oakenfold does interesting things to Maryam Mursal's "Somali Udida Ceb," given the chance. But even Youssou N'Dour's contribution isn't new or remixed -- in fact, it's a track from the early '90s. Still, there are some very touching moments toward the end. Uganda's Bernard Kabanda, who was about to make a name for himself on the world music circuit when he died of AIDS in 1999, offers "Kasennyanku," and the TASO Choir, all of whom are HIV-positive, close with the stirring "AIDS the Disease." But, for the most part, since it draws on Real World's usual suspects, this all too often comes across as little more than an advertisement for the label's artists, rather than the in-depth look at African music it could have been.

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