Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits [Piranha, 2018]
Site of both the monumental Norman Rush novel Mortals and the soft-hearted James McCall Smith No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (Jill Scott played Precious Ramotswe on TV), Botswana is less esoteric than Piranha wants curiosity seekers to believe, its capital no further from Pretoria than Boston is from New York. Nor will the bass-heavy "Botswana guitar" style showcased on this oddly configured compilation sound strange to any fan of South African mbaqanga. But that's good--with mbaqanga having long ago run its post-apartheid course, these tunes work up the same gruff energy and stalwart pulse without percussion instruments or anything Jo'burg would call a recording studio. Propelled by a guitar technique in which the hand reaches over the neck to riff on three strings while the thumb drives a bass sometimes furnished by a battery cable, their rustic confidence is less frantic than mbaqanga's urban drive. The vinyl disc features only 11 tracks, whose purchase permits the download of eight otherwise unavailable others, including one called "Condom." Those 11 are the cream. On side two, hear the scratchy violin of "Ngwana Wa Dichabeng" transition to the playful vocalese of "Tiki Molamu" to the organ-driven female falsetto of "Re Babedi." And wonder where Sibongile Kgaila found the guitar hook of "Gladys." A-