AFRICA KABISA'S BEST RELEASES OF 2006
Cheikh Lo (Senegal) -- Lamp Fall -- Nonesuch/World Circuit
Born in Burkina Faso, raised in Senegal, singer Cheikh Lo brilliantly combines mbalax, Cuban guajira, soukous, and Afro-Brazilian influences in this extraordinary and spiritual CD. The musical mix is so eclectic, there is something for everyone's liking. The icing on the cake is an inspired version of the Congolese classic "N'Galula".
Samba Mapangala (Kenya) -- Song and Dance -- Virunga
One of the sweetest voices in African music, Samba Mapangala delivers a knockout in Song and Dance. Samba has been on the scene since the 1970s, and has an extraordinary repertoire behind him, but this 2006 release is one of his finest. It's hard not to listen to every song on Song and Dance without experiencing pure joy. If you want to see the dance behind the song, check out the wonderful bootylicious video of "Nyama Choma" at http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoID=1399767946 .
Kekele (DRC) -- Kinavana -- Stern's
Kinshasa + Havana = Kinavana, and it all adds up very nicely on Congolese rumba stalwarts Kekele's third release. On Kinavana, Kekele take Cuban guajira-son classics (mostly from composer Guillermo Portabales) and reinterpret them with Lingala lyrics. Kekele's regular members include such ex-Les Quatre Etoiles greats as Nyboma, Syran M'Benza, Wuta Mayi; Kinavana features guest appearances by Madilu System, Mbilia Bel, and others.
Africando (Senegal) -- Ketakuba --- Stern's
Africando sound closer to Puerto Rico than Cuba these days, but hey, they still know how to do salsa right. Highlights include a salsa version of Franco's "Mario," sung by Madilu.
Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra (Mali) -- Boulevard de l'Independence -- Nonesuch/World Circuit
The Symmetric Orchestra is an audacious concept but kora genius Toumani Diabate pulls it off with amazing creativity and flair. This West African big band seamlessly fuses the traditional and modern, ranging from Mande folklore to Senegalese salsa. (Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra will be appearing 3/29 at the Somerville Theatre.)
Salif Keita (Mali) -- M'Bemba -- Decca/Universal
A phenomenal new release from Salif Keita. (Salif Keita will be appearing 4/21 at the Somerville Theatre.)
Big Joe (Sierra Leone) -- Hold Me Tight -- H&R Music
"Shake U Bam Bam" -- from this CD -- has been heavy on the Africa Kabisa playlist all year. This ultimate party song combines motifs from "Azda" to "Hot Hot Hot".
Oliver Ngoma (Gabon) -- Saga -- Lusafrica
Afrozouk maestro Ngoma returns with a new release.
Refugee All Stars (Sierra Leone) -- Living Like a Refugee -- Anti
The backstory of this band is more interesting than the CD, but understanding what the band went through to produce this release makes the music that much more inspiring. Musically, a nice mix of goombay and reggae with positive and powerful lyrics. (The documentary film about the Refugee All Stars will have several screenings at the Museum of Fine Arts this month.)
Pierre Akendengue (Gabon) -- Goree -- Lusafrica
A thoughtful concept album with songs exploring the painful legacy of Goree's slave-trading history. Akendengue is one of the great intellectuals of African music.
BEST REISSUES & COMPILATIONS
Golden Afrique Vol. 2 (DRC) -- Network
Highly recommended! (as is Vol. 1) A great introduction to some of the most famous tracks from the golden age of Congolese music. This 2-CD set is an essential collection for Congolese music lovers. (Tracks include "Cooperation," "Double Double," "Aon Aon" and many more.) Expensive but worth it.
Les Mangalepa (Kenya) -- Retroafric
Great 1970s East African rumba.
Rochereau (DRC) and Gran Kalle (DRC) -- Syllart
The 1950s-1970s catalogs of Tabu Ley Rochereau and Gran Kalle & African Jazz are now back in print and available through Stern's Music.
African Decale (Cote d'Ivoire) -- Available through Pan-African All Stars
Coupe decale is still ruling the African nightclubs but, astonishingly, it's very difficult to find collections to purchase. African Decale has a lot of great tracks.
Rough Guide to West African Gold (Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone) -- World Music Network
Includes classics such as Bembeya Jazz's "Whiskey Soda" and Super Sweet Talks' "The Lord's Prayer" as well as more obscure tracks.
WHERE TO BUY AFRICAN MUSIC IN THE U.S.A.
I personally get much of my music from Pan African All Stars (Alpha-Si), Simba Music (Joe), and Stern's (Ken). If you call these guys, tell them Julia from Africa Kabisa sent you.
Pan African All Stars (in Atlanta, Georgia) and Simba Music (in Takoma Park, MD) are the best African music retailers in the country. They have excellent stock and provide first-rate customer service. Please support them! They should have most of the CDs on this list, and also carry DVDs. You can also order the Stern's, Lusafrica, Retroafric, and Syllart titles directly from Stern's Music.
Simba Music -- call 301-445-1670. Ask for Joe.