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World Music CD Reviews Africa

SALIF KEITA

By TOM ORR
Published April 7, 2006

The Best Of the Early Years
Wrasse

MORY KANTE
The Best Of Mory Kante
Barclay

GEOFFREY ORYEMA
The Best Of Geoffrey Oryema
Wrasse

These compilations spotlight three considerable African music talents and are a mixed bag. Keita’s is the standout, with his distinctive wail gracing classic tracks by the Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs. Griot fervor, Latin undercurrents and epic-length songs with brilliant instrumental work abound, creating a deep Malian earthiness that Keita’s solo work has recently made a welcomed return to. Kante also made his initial mark with Mali’s Rail Band, but his disc is a profound disappointment, full of drum machines and sickening synthesizers that all but bury the artist’s capable voice and kora playing. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether there exists anything worthwhile under the excess. Lastly, it seems no coincidence that Geoffrey Oryema has recorded for the Real World label: his music has the same moodiness and emotive reach as Peter Gabriel’s less commercial work. But Oryema is not simply an imitator, and the rock, folk and electronica are a good fit alongside traditional sounds. It’s not music anyone would think typically African, but its engaging and innovative nature makes this disc worth owning.