Umoya

Tribal Beatz of Africa

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AllMusic Review by

Tribal Beatz of Africa is an album of ambient African music, if such a genre exists. The band Umoya is based around Barry Van Zyl, the drummer for Johnny Clegg, and Robin Hogarth, a world music producer with a fair amount of crossover success under his belt. The rest of the band is comprised largely of other members of Johnny Clegg's band, and in at least one instance, Clegg himself (on "Sihamba Nawe"). Despite this strong influence of musicians well versed in Zulu-related sounds, the focus of the album shifts uncontrollably from one regional beat and type to another. After starting with a Ugandan piece, the works jump to Ghana and Mali, down to South Africa, and immediately up to the Central African jungles. Before it's finished it moves back south and west a couple more times, touching on traditional rhythms from the Yoruba, the Shangaans, and the Manding. The sound is light throughout, with a lilting guitar to be heard from time to time based on the South African maskande style and a soft chorus of voices over the top. In essence, there isn't much to differentiate this album from any number of other softer, pop-influenced pieces of African fusion. What it does provide is a remarkable spread of regional influences. While Johnny Clegg can perform at the highest caliber in the realm of Zulu music, this album drops the caliber a small amount and trades it in for a wide breadth of sound.

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