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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Various Artists

By Bruce Miller
Published April 27, 2007

West Africa Unwired
World Music Network

This is a curious compilation, coming as it does in a 100% recycled cardboard sleeve and created through a joint collaboration between the World Music Network label and Amnesty International. On it are tracks by familiar West African artists such as Baaba Maal, Boubacar Traore, Toumani Diabate and Mory Kante alongside pieces by the lesser-known group Etran Finatawa. And like the title suggests, all the performances here are acoustic, which is supposed to demonstrate that, despite access to electricity and amplifiers, Africans hold true to their roots, eschewing pop trends or volume. However, one listen to Nigerian acid rock power trio Blo's first album or Mali's own James Brown, Moussa Doumbia, will enable anyone to hear that this romantic notion isn't all it's cracked up to be. Still, this is a solid collection of driving, acoustic African groove, avoiding the slickness of most Afro-pop while nonetheless coming off utterly modern.