Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Afro Latin Via Dakar [Syllart Productions/Discograph, 2011]
With its ill-organized, ill-translated notes and obscure sequencing, this two-CD collectorama is a puzzle to think about. But not to hear--it listens great. Dates run late '60s to early '80s, though without a decent scorecard it can be hard to tell what's when, and tempos trend medium, presumably to flatter the dignity of Senegal's post-independence elite, which was the core audience for what we'll call Senegalese salsa even though it was made by musicians from all over West Africa and often recorded in Abidjan. This elite audience the notes don't note amid their oft-told tales of Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Cuban sailors bearing precious 78s, but if you'll compare Addis Ababa's mood in the Éthiopiques comps you'll hear what I mean. Even the dance numbers are pretty contained. Key players include Orchestra Baobab in its many iterations (six of the 32 songs, only the climactic "Papa Ndiaye" known to me), master vocalist Laba Sosseh (get this man a best-of), and such relatively big names as Papa Seck, Thione Seck, and droll saxophonist Issa Cissoko, who got around. Though the annotator's boasts of rare 45s and student bands make one fear collectibles for their own sake, there are few clinkers and not many generics. Baobab fans especially will know where this music is coming from and be happy to hear more. A-