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Various Artists
Bambara Mystic Soul
Analog Africa CD70

It's official; the so-called developed world is drowning in DJ-curated repackagings of 35 to 40 year old Latin and funk-influenced West-African grooves. Many of these collections suggest scenes that may have never really existed, or their editors cherry pick particularly rare stylistic examples of sounds the bands themselves only dabbled in. In this way, they often decide what matters based on what a Westerner may truly be able to get with, due to a familiarity many us really ought to get past. Yet compilations and original LP reissues by the likes of the above label, Soundway, Mississippi, Vampi Soul, Strut and a growing host of others are also shining a spotlight on what was no doubt a fertile period in the region’s musical development, a post-colonial, pre-corruption-fueled fallout that, for a brief moment, allowed the arts to flower.

Perhaps Ghana and Nigeria documented this period most extensively, but then there was Benin, and especially the massive output of the country’s best-known band, Poly Ritmo (an ensemble who have been heavily, but hardly exhaustively compiled on Analog Africa, Soundway and Sterns Africa). Yet, it’s only natural that the interest would spill over into Ghana and Benin’s shared northern neighbor, Burkina Faso. And positioned as it is due east of southern Mali as well, its 70s-era pop sounds no doubt bear the stamp of that Sahelian musical powerhouse.

Yet this isn’t the first compilation of such artists as Sandwidi Pierre, Amadou Ballake and others to appear recently. There’s Savannahphone’s Ouaga Affair from 2 years ago (a compilation which has a number of track overlaps with this set), as well as a 3-year old Ballake reissue on Oriki. In fact, the discerning sharity blog surveyor will unearth hours of treasures from this landlocked African Nation. However, what sets this comp apart, is the massive attention to track choice label owner Sammy Ben Redjeb brings to any project, not to mention the exhaustive booklet with his own story of tracking this stuff down, artists’ telling their own bios and, in this case, a bit of Burkina music history courtesy of Ouaga Affair’s own Craig Taylor.

Like most of the other AA releases, Redjeb, who is also a DJ, has his finger on the dance-floor pulse, and, aside from one weak track, Mamo Lagbema’s “Love, Music and Dance,” this is compilation full of aggressively raw funk, proto-soukous and tracks brimming over with gorgeous Malian-style Cuban-influenced depth. Ballake’s “Sie Koumgolo” percolates with bottomless guitar-shimmer while the Afro Sound System’s “Tink Tank” is a definitive take on lo-fi funk nastiness so intense it seemingly defied normal recording standards. If there’s any real complaint about the set, it has less to do with the contents and more to do with this review’s opening statement. Nothing on this disc will be necessarily revelatory to the already initiated, but then that’s not the point. There is still a tremendous amount of this music rarely heard outside the country, including the sounds made by Bobo-Dioulasso’s state-sponsored orchestras. While we’re now hearing like bands from Guinea and Mali, there’s still a treasure trove to come from the former Upper Volta. Perhaps, Bambara Mystic Soul will help unlock some of what’s still presently obscure in this musically bountiful country. - Bruce Miller

Listen to "Renouveau" by Amadou Balaké et Les 5 consuls

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