Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-03-01


Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-85 (Analog Africa, 2012) You'll need the physical on this package because the 60-page booklet is part of the attraction: a detailed if not always fluent rundown of musical doings in the "dormant diaspora" of coastal Colombia, where the biggest port on the Colombian Caribbean, Barranquilla, was transformed by forces half understood into a voracious market for African dance music in the '70s and '80s. Although crate-digger obscurantism is big on this scene--Barranquilla is still home to a contest in which DJs compete to play the rarest African record--these two discs are a cherry-pick, and astutely programmed too. I prefer the one where Colombians imitate Africans, which is heavy on short-form soukous derivatives and makes room for Fela and Miriam Makeba rips as well as the sui generis Wasamay? Rock Group. But the jerkier, accordion-heavy "Puya, Porro, Gaita, Cumbiamba, Mapal?, Chand?, [and] Descarga" of the Latin selection has a gritty, fetchingly homemade quality. And if you want something smoother, try J. Alvear's "Cumbia Sincelejana." A-

The Rough Guide to the Music of Senegal (World Music Network, 2013) As someone who mistook Youssou N'Dour's warmup guy for the boss several times back in the day, I agree that Senegal brims with impressive singers. The strategy of showcasing winners by such longtime crossover hopefuls as Cheikh Lo, Ismael L?, Mansour Seck, and Baaba Maal honors and exploits this plenitude: make sure you check out the Thione Seck, Sister Fa, and Amadou Diagne picks. But put on either of the Music in My Head collections and find out why you could miss them if you didn't make an effort. The bows to Orchestra Baobob and Etoile de Dakar here pop out every time because one band cooked and the other exploded. In fact, even the Westernized folkloricism of Daby Balde's worthy bonus disc powers a more striking collective identity than most of these tracks. B+

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