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World Music CD Reviews North American

VARIOUS ARTISTS

By Tom Jackson
Published June 27, 2006

I Heard It On NPR
NPR Classics

It would be crazy to knock the rationale behind this release: songs that champion social justice, political freedom and human rights. Nonetheless, the unity of theme combined with the variety of contributors turns the disc into something of a ragbag, pulling together tracks that, while sharing broad sentiments, have little in common musically. So when Patti Smith’s homestead redemption hymn “Jubilee” is followed by Ukrainian rappers Greenjolly, the feeling can be pretty unsettling. Not to suggest that Greenjolly aren’t important. Their song “Razom Nas Bahato” became one of the anthems of the 2004 Orange Revolution. It’s just that their sound is noisy and shouty and maybe, in this case, you really had to be there. Elsewhere on the disc, there are tunes with which some readers will already be familiar: Souad Massi’s bittersweet “Deb,” the exquisite “white voice” harmonies of the Warsaw Village Band on “Cranes,” and a throbbing contribution from Tuareg bluesmen Tinariwen. Still more inspirational moments—and its flaws aside, that is surely what this kind of project is about—come from the Melodians and Miriam Makeba.