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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

BLACK STAR LINER: REGGAE FROM AFRICA

By Tom Pryor
Published September 8, 2005

Heartbeat

This 1983 release rounds up some vintage West African reggae from the ’70s and early ’80s and was one of the first compilations of African reggae widely available. Much of the material here hails from Ghana and Nigeria, and almost all of it takes the Wailers’ patented “One Drop” sound as a starting point. But strange things happened when reggae finally made it back home to Africa: the music became more expansive and inclusive, with musicians stretching out for longer solos and incorporating new (and sometimes ancient) drum and rhythm patterns. Outstanding cuts here include two from erstwhile Nigerian highlife legend Sonny Okuson, “Third World” and “Fire In Soweto,” and the incredible “Leaking Heart,” a lilting, thoroughly Africanized rave-up from obscure Ghanaian band Sabanoh 75. Named for Marcus Garvey’s never-realized Shipping Line that would take Africans in America back to the motherland, Black Star Liner is an invaluable document of a musical family reunion.