Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

African Rumba [Putamayo, 2016]
Every so often the safest and most pan-touristic of the shifting cadre of "world" labels digs into its pockets and pulls out something gorgeous that goes down as easy as its target market supposedly insists. This one documents a pan-African phenomenon, as over a span of stylistically evolving decades, the rumba clave into which Cuban musicians converted Congolese rhythms proved ripe for reconversion from Dakar in the northwest to Luando seven thousand miles thataway. While slightly favoring Zairean variants, Putumayo smooshes all this action into ten tracks that mix godfathers with revivalists with expats with pretenders with senior citizens glad for a payday. Yet somehow there's not a tuneout in the bunch, and I'm amazed that I've pursued these musics for so long without ever registering Senegalese legend Pape Fall's "Boul Topato" or running across Togo queen Afia Mala. Too sweet on the whole, you think? Then go suck a lemon. A