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World Music CD Reviews World Fusion


By Nils Jacobson
Published June 27, 2006

FM Groove

“Life is planet Africa!” sings Francis Mbappe, as this 40-minute celebration kicks into gear, and if listeners have any doubts about his premise, they’ll find plenty of supporting evidence in the tracks that follow. Mbappe, a bassist with an impressive resume of collaborations that includes gigs with Herbie Hancock, Fela Kuti and Youssou N'Dour, moved from his native Cameroon to New York a few years ago, but he hasn't forgotten his roots. By incorporating them into settings that draw from jazz, funk, folk and other styles, he has created a fresh, open-minded global fusion. And while his virtuoso electric bass playing frequently takes center stage, as on the quick-stepping “Awololo Iyo,” he also fattens up the sound with the help of a dozen supporting musicians who sing and play guitar, violin, flute, organ and percussion. The rootsy character of these pieces, each with its own message, is marked by humility and measured restraint. The unexpected remix version of “Wan De We” toward the end is an enthusiastic call to dance, delivered with just vocals and percussion. A nice touch, indeed.