Top CDs of 2008
Compiled by DJ Yusuf, Busara Promotions
BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA (Mali) / Segu Blue / (Out Here)
2007 was a good year for Bassekou Kouyate. As well as contributing to recordings by Toumani Diabate, Youssou N’dour and Dee Dee Bridgewater, under his own name he finally released Segu Blue, voted fROOTS magazine and BBC Radio 3’s world music Album of the Year. Featuring four variously sized ngoni, percussion and several of Mali’s finest vocalists, it’s a mostly acoustic affair that will certainly stand the test of time.
YOUSSOU N’DOUR (Senegal) / Alsaama Day / (Jololi)
Leave alone Youssou’s last international release, the lacklustre Rokku Mi Rokka (even the CD cover is horrible). Much more soul-stirring is this Alsaama Day album, released on his home grown Jololi record label in Senegal. Featuring the Super Etoile de Dakar band, with whom Youssou has been performing for more than a quarter of a century. Together they deliver – full on mbalax rhythms with groove, intensity, and the vocals of the one and only, to make you fly.
ORCHESTRA BAOBAB (Senegal) / Made in Dakar / (World Circuit)
Orchestra Baobab recorded some of West Africa’s finest music in the late-70s and early 80s, some of which were re-released more recently by World Circuit. For the same record label, this is Baobab’s second new release since reforming around five years ago. Using a similar formula – big band Cuban style with those extra special Senegalese touches in the interweaving guitars, percussion breaks and soaring vocals – the group is still on top.
VARIOUS (East Africa) / Zanzibar Festival Classics (Fourth World)
To celebrate Sauti za Busara’s anniversary, Zanzibar Festival Classics showcases the best of the first five years. As with the event, so with the CD in that it features a wide range of East African artists and some from further afield. Good news for music junkies is that most of the tracks are previously unreleased internationally. Limited edition on sale at the festival and shops in Zanzibar includes a free DVD with interviews and festival highlights.
VARIOUS (Ethiopia) / Very Best of Ethiopiques / (Union Square)
Ethiopiques is the legendary label under Francis Falceto’s direction that has twenty-something releases of wonderful acoustic and electric folk, jazz, swing and groove from all regions of Ethiopia under its belt. This magnificent compilation is culled from a series of releases by small Ethiopian record labels during the late 1960s and early 1970s on vinyl singles and albums, most of which were not heard at the time outside the country.
TIKEN JAH FAKOLY (Cote d’Ivoire) / L’Africain / (Barclay)
Tiken Jah Fakoly plays roots reggae music "to wake up the consciences". His music is inspired by Africa as much as Jamaica, however; as on the moving final track Ma Cote d'Ivoire where he duets with Beta Simon, and the main instrument is the kora, played by Toumani Diabate. Most African listeners feel a deep affinity with his lyrics and powerful delivery, as Fakoly speaks for the oppressed. African reggae at its absolute finest.
MANU CHAO (Europe) / La Radiolina / (Because)
Another release from Mr Clandestino packed with catchy tunes; the only major difference is that along with a mixture of Spanish, French, Italian and other languages, this time Manu sometimes sings in English. So even more of us get the message, as in Politik Kills or Raining in Paradise, the anthemic single. As Charlie Gillett puts it so deftly, “Manu Chao is the tribal leader of those who belong to no tribe, the voice for the millions who turn their backs on propaganda and celebrity.”
RAIL BAND (Mali) / Belle Epoque Vol 1: Soundiata / (Sterns)
This double CD compilation takes you back to the 1970s and early 80s, before the music of Mali and Senegal had much of an audience beyond their own borders. To a time when a penniless Salif Keita was "still plucking his old Chinese guitar under a tree, forlorn and desperate, lamenting the human condition..." Compiled by the legendary West African producer Ibrahim Sylla, it includes the earliest recordings of Salif Keita and Mory Kante. Like the sound of this? Then be sure to get Authenticite: The Syliphone Years, another fantabulous Sterns compilation of bands from Guinea 1965 – 1980.
ROBERTO FONSECA (Cuba) / Zamazu / (Enja)
Roberto Fonseca is a special jazz pianist, even by Cuban standards. He is best known for his work with different members of the Buena Vista Social Club, especially the late Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Cachaito Lopez who all guest on this album. Zamazu sees Fonseca step out of the shadows of his mentors to present his own musical vision - and what a vision it is. It’s a deeper, more spiritual offering than most, and Fonseca proceeds to astonish in a number of different ways.
BI KIDUDE (Zanzibar) / Zanzibara 4 / (Buda)
By Zanzibar’s most famous cultural ambassador, this CD is a fine compilation of old and new recordings by taarab’s living legend. Her performances are wonderful, her age adding nuances, her deep history informing each inflection. She is accompanied on different songs by the cream of Zanzibar’s musicians, playing oud, qanun, violins, accordion, as well as other instruments. Not for the faint-hearted, the CD also includes a 14-minute msondo drum workout, recorded in 1995. Werner Graebner’s excellent photos and liner notes offer insight into Bi Kidude’s (very) long history, translations of lyrics and more.