Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2010-12-14


D.O. Misiani and Shirati Jazz: The King of History (Sterns Africa, 2010) This rebellious, outspoken, girl-happy Tanzanian Luo put himself in the forefront of Kenya's Luo-speaking benga style in his late twenties and was in his forties by the time two Shirati Jazz albums were released Stateside in the '80s, which was also when both were recorded. So just as Benga Blast!, a selection of Kenyan singles, bubbled more irresistibly than Benga Beat, cut later in London, the added effervescence of the chattering guitar and hyperactive bass on these 13 '70s dance tunes speaks well of Misiani's youth. Most of the front-loaded ones are social commentary, but about midway through six women's names bum-rush the track listing. Misiani had four wives and died in 2006--the victim, like his fellow Luo Barack Obama Sr., of an automobile accident. He was still recording. A-

Systema Solar: Systema Solar (Chusma, 2010) A goat-voiced Latino-Indian vocalist and a goat-voiced Afro-Latino vocalist lead two or three turntablists/samplers/keyboardists(?), a trap drummer, and a conga player to an irrepressible Colombian-Caribbean street party. The "genre" is piko, as the amplification-mad coastal sound systems are called--though there's plenty of cumbia in these grooves, they range much further, including some of the itchiest scratching on recent record. And it don't stop. Compare any current salsa record and you'll hear the difference immediately--this stuff is much rawer. It's the music of people who are overjoyed to be able to put their hardships aside for an hour or two. They know the hardships are still there, but they haven't been sapped by them, and they need to prove that to themselves and the world. A-

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