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Various Artists Africa Remix: Ah Freak Iya Review

Compilation. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

A well sequenced selection of top quality grooves that takes the pulse of 21st century...

Jon Lusk 2005

With so much media attention focussed on what's wrong with Africa, and all the pledges currently being made by the governments of the developed world to do something about it, one could be forgiven for thinking that it's a continent without hope or dreams. The current show at London's Hayward Gallery may go some way towards dispelling that notion. It's the largest exhibition of African visual art ever held in Europe, and this compilation is billed as a selection of tunes from the 'jukebox in the foyer'.

Try to get over the pretentious title ­ which is explained in the sleevenotes but still sounds a bit silly­ and the fact that (mercifully) there is only one remix on this CD. Then you can appreciate Africa Remix for what it is; a well sequenced selection of top quality grooves that takes the pulse of 21st century African roots music and finds it to be in surprisingly rude health.

Africa Remix scores well on several points which distinguish good compilations from unnecessary plastic objects. For the novice, it presents an overview of the cutting edge, firmly avoiding MOR material without sacrificing accessibility. And African music aficionados are also catered for with a hard-to-find track from one of Youssou N'Dour's Senegal­only cassettes as well as a taster from an unreleased album by Ghorwane, Mozambique's unluckiest band ­ and perhaps its finest. Also, the compilers have cherry-picked the best tracks from a few so-so albums which you don't really need to hear the whole of (hands up Mory Kante and Manecas Costa!), thus saving you the bother of buying them. The only weakish tracks are those by Thomas Mapfumo (who sounds like a shadow of his former self on Nherera,) and Affaire Mokuwa ­ one of Kékélé's more syrupy moments.

The opening trio of songs is particularly inspired, juxtaposing two very different faces of contemporary Congolese music with a gritty Ki-Swahili and English language rap painting a picture of life in Nairobi's urban jungles. And the inclusion of more Congolese street music in the form of Konono No.1's closing 'Paradiso' should encourage more people to check out their fabulously anarchic album in its entirety. And maybe even visit the exhibitions.

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