Up from the Roots explores the African origins of Caribbean music, with Mongo Santamaria setting aside his trademark conga drums in favor of traditional African percussion instruments. Although far removed from the boogaloo sound of his late-'60s dates on Columbia, the LP features some of Santamaria's most potent and artful playing, capturing the rhythms and textures of traditional African chants with masterly precision. As a primer in African musical history, Up from the Roots at times errs too much on the side of education over entertainment, but by the record's second half Santamaria returns to the funky Latin soul of his most popular efforts, unleashing the righteous "Jose Outside" and "Forked Tongue."
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny