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World Music CD Reviews Africa

GOKH-BI SYSTEM

By Robert Kaye
Published September 27, 2005

Ancient Meets Urban
A Round World

Marketing itself as “hip-hop ambassadors from Senegal,” Gokh-bi (Neighborhood) System is partially based on the ancient tradition of griots, or troubadour storytellers, as well as on politically-oriented Senegalese rap. Unlike a lot of American rap, their lyrics mostly espouse humanitarian themes of peace, love, justice and community. The group is no stranger to the limelight, which it has already shared with Angelique Kidjo, Damien Marley, and others. All six tunes on this EP are decidedly down-tempo, drum ’n’ bass-infused numbers. Some tracks, such as “Stand For Hip Hop” and “Adjoua,” combine sung vocal tracks in conjunction with the unison rapping, adding a more musical context to the lyrics. Like most rap, the background instrumental tracks are dominated by heavy downbeat-driven drums, repetitive, smudgy bass lines, and simplistic chordal movement.  Perhaps the most interesting element is how smoothly the rappers switch from Senegalese to American lyrics within a phrase. The album would have been better served by providing translations of the Senegalese lyrics. Fans of chilled-out reggae will find this album more appealing than those who favor more lively AfroFusion projects.