Sunday, April 15, 2012

In review--Groovin' on African Blues

Putumayo Presents African Blues
Putumayo World Music
(Release Date: April 24, 2012)

While many world music listeners think of Mali when the topic of African blues comes up, African blues it seems traverses the African continent.  Personally, I’m glad that Putumayo World Music pointed that out to me with African Blues--a compilation that features plenty of groovy Malian blues, but also includes Taj Mahal’s collaboration with Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar, which by the way, is nowhere near Mali.  As it turns out, the track, Dhow Countries by Taj Mahal Meets Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar is my favorite song on the compilation.  Mahal’s dusky signature wed to the Arabic strings of the Zanzibar orchestra hits the spot.  Besides, it is the only song sung in English so I can understand the story in the song.

So you’re wondering who else appears on the compilation.  The usual suspects such as Tinariwen (a Tuareg rock band from Mali), who teams up with Playing for Change and Keb Mo, and Issa Bagayogo from Mali appear on the compilation.  Yet, I’m exposed to new voices such as Diabel Cissokho and Ramon Goose (Totoumo),  features jangly kora along with bluesy slide guitar and drums.  The Tinariwen-Playing for Change track, Groove in G brings in sitar, and plenty of blues guitars performing 12-bar blues.  Listening to that track, you wouldn’t know where you are in the world, but somewhere to chill.  Another favorite is Muntu Valdo’s sunny Timba that features harmonica and heavily syncopated guitar.  Listen to Camel Shuffle by the Tuareg rocker Amar Sundy that includes snaky flute.

Overall, this compilation provides dusky vocals, warm guitars and flows with good pacing between then songs.  I prefer to listen to this blues CD to start my day.  I wish more women vocalists appeared on this compilation since the African continent is full of fabulous women vocalists.  Perhaps the label will put together a “Women of African Blues” compilation.  Here’s hoping.  When I normally think of the blues, sad songs form in my brain, but this compilation has a feel-good effect, as do Putumayo World Music’s compilations in general.  I would imagine that listening to this compilation sitting outside on a sunny day would uplift spirits as well.  Fantastic.


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