World music, from Cuba to Africa and back....
Out Of Cuba: Latin American Music Takes Africa By Storm
Topic Records (www.topicrecords.co.uk)
Los Afro-Salseros de Senegal
En La Habana
Popular African Music
Africa's influence on the music of the New World is hardly news, but beginning in the 1930s, in the throes of global economic crisis, the Gramophone and Victor companies began to repackage their Latin American catalogues with Ghana, Nigeria and the Congo region in their sights, marketed as the GV Series. Powerful radio transmitters broadcast the music to keen West African audiences, and local performers began to incorporate Cuban elements into their repertoire. The spread of the phonograph and the increased availability of affordable musical instruments, especially following World War II, only enhanced the popularity of Cuban dance music, and the rest is history.
Repackaged yet again, these basic Cuban titles (many actually recorded in New York and Paris) include definitive numbers by Trio Matamoros, Sexteto Habanero, Don Azpiazu, Abelardo Valdes, Antonio Machin, popularizer Xavier Cugat (with the striking Lucumí-language vocals of Miguelito Valdes on a 1940 version of "Elube Changó"), and blind tresero Arsenio Rodríguez (his well-known "Dundumbanza"). Contrary to the CD title, also heard are the highly suggestive 1933 Nuyorican plena "Menéalo que se empelota," sung by the legendary Canario; "Madalena," a samba with string orchestra by Rico's Creole Band (the Cuban ensemble immensely popular in Paris from the 1930s into the 1950s); and northeastern Brazil's baiăo-forro accordion innovator Luiz Gonzaga, on his memorable "Juazeiro," a riveting if unexpected performance. In these days of the instant throwaway compilation, the occasional exception appears whose coherent reason merits the labors of compiler and listener alike, as with Out Of Cuba.
Even so, there's a certain tendency in the global distribution of world sounds for a handful of musicians to come to represent the whole of a given country's music. In Senegal, for instance, Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal, Africando and (in France at least) Touré Kunda have dominated since the 1990s - and then there's the recent "rediscovery" of Orchestre Baobab. Of course, there's far more to popular music history in Senegal. Important external influences stem from Cuba's cultural and political involvement with newly independent West African nations, and the global dissemination of a diverse blend of Afro-Cuban music and African American R&B, funk and jazz.
When the Cuban ambassador heard an all-star salsero revue on a Dakar visit, he issued an invitation to Cuba, bringing Los Afro-Salseros de Senegal to record at the EGREM studios. Producer Günter Gretz's album notes recount the engineers' foibles and reveal the interference of politics in the recording session. Small wonder; when the musicians arrived five days late, Gretz insisted on going into the studio on July 26, 2001, the anniversary of the Cuban revolution, a day when no one works.
Kinavana, the third release of the Kinshasa band Kékélé, is an enticing contemporary essay on Congolese rumba, as originally confected in the 1960s by the likes of Tabu Ley Rochereau, African Jazz Mokili Mobimba, Sam Mangwana, Les Bantous and many others. Guests include singers Mbilia Bel and Madily "System" Bialu, guitarist Papa Noel, saxophonist Manu Dibango, and a host of New York-based Latin session artists, including bassist Ruben Rodríguez and percussionist Luis Quintero.
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