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Various Artists Putumayo presents Acoustic Africa Review

Compilation. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

Many of these artists are revisiting their origins by paring things down and allowing...

Chris Moss 2002

This has to be one of the most serene, sweetest, tuneful compilations to appear for ages. Compilations can sometimes seem random or, worse, sequenced without a thought for changes in rhythm and pace. But Putumayo's selection of 12 tracks from 9 countries (only Mali and Guinea-Bissau get two outings) is a savvy tour of the continent which balances the distinctiveness of each contribution with a simple, unifying theme: the rootsy sound of African music when played free of electrical appliances.

Many of these artists - Habib Koité , Vusi Mahlasela, Dobet Gnahoré - have explored synthesised sounds and hi-tech studio technologies in the past, and are now revisiting their origins by paring things down and allowing their instruments to breathe again.

All the songs are winners, but "Antonia" by Manecas Costa stands out for its complex meld of native African and imported Lusitanian influences and for Costa's stirring voice. That's the penultimate track and the final song, Fanta Bourama by Mali's Djelimady Tounkara, is also a gentle, reflective stunner. So let this one play right to the end. A portion of the proceeds from Acoustic Africa will be donated to Oxfam.

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