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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Various Artists

By Tom Jackson
Published April 24, 2007

The Rough Guide To West African Gold
World Music Network

Digging in the archives can be just as musically stimulating as checking out new talent. And that’s roundly proven on this first class compilation. The Golden Age of West African music is considered to be from the late 1950s to early 1980s, growing out of the progressive independence of that part of the world. This collection captures and reflects the glow of nations and people redefining themselves, and embraces a wide range of styles: there’s calypso in the schematic “Ghana-Guinea-Mali” (How many songs do you know that celebrate trade alliances?), highlife, the Lord’s Prayer set to a shuffling beat and wah-wah guitar, and plenty of Latin-flavored and straightahead African funk. While star performers include Salif Keita with the Orchestre Rail Band De Bamako, there’s also the silvery steel guitar of Celestine Ukwu, and Geraldo Pino And The Heartbeats’ “People Will Talk” may be quite simply the funkiest thing you’ll hear all year.