Various Artists

Travelogue: A Musical Journey Through Africa

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Travelogue: A Musical Journey Through Africa does an admirable job of the daunting task of attempting to demonstrate the scope of musical traditions on the African continent. Africa's position as a trading nexus to the world and centuries of colonialism brought a myriad of outside influences to a myriad of indigenous styles. The end result is that Africa offers an unbelievably wide range of music, from very traditional to essentially Western dance music. To the credit of the producers, they have selected tracks and artists (with a few exceptions) who will be largely unknown outside their immediate region, and created a complilation that should dispel any preconcieved notions of what African music is. The first three tracks might even surprise listeners who consider themselves familiar with African Music. The first tune, from Algeria, prominently features Arabic percussion; the second, from Cape Verde, carries the Portuguese influence prevalent in that area, and the third track is by longtime African Salseros Africando (from Senegal) performing with a Cuban string section! Or compare the Kora-like intertwining guitars of Sekouba Bambino (from Guinea) with the Palm-Wine majesty of S.E. Rogie (Sierra Leone) using essentially the same instruments with added percussion. Issa Bagayogo (Mali) has a traditional style similar to Oumou Sangare, while Pablo Lubadika plays the highly danceable Soukous that the Congo is so well known for. Nigeria is represented not by the Juju or Afrobeat that the region is known for, but by a traditional drum-led chant. Aster Aweke turns in a surprisingly traditional performance, accompanied only by the kraar, a kind of lute/harp. This leads into some more delicate harp music from Tanzania, then to a beautiful, hypnotic piece from Stella Chiweshe (Zimbabwe) performed on Mbira, voice and Balafon. Madagascar is represented next, with a lovely, bouncy tune featuring guitar, voice and accordion prominently, and the album closes with the rich choral acapella vocals of the South African National Anthem. A well-chosen compilation with informative liner notes, Travelogue: A Musical Journey Through Africa gives a nice overview of the rich tapestry that is the Music of Africa.

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