Two Cool New African cd's, Plus one Great Collection of Tropical Classics

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It’s weird, a lot of reissues are coming out that are better than contemporary African bands IMHO.  These three caught my ears:

Zani Diabate  & Les Héritiers     Tientalaw       Sterns Music

Zani Diabate and his Super  Djata band was one of the first African bands I used to play on Morning Becomes Eclectic when I was music director of KCRW.  He had that propulsive Malian modal groove that just sucks you into the music like some sort of gravitational force.   Back in the 1980s, this was a new and captivating sound.   This is his last album, and it captures what attracted me in the first place.  He passed away in December 2010.

This lo-fi youtube video captures the hypnotic musical web he spun:

Sory Kandia Kouyaté     La Voix de la Révolution     (Éditions Syliphone Conakry  / Sterns Music)

The jazz poet once Whitney Balliet, writing in the New Yorker, once wrote of Big Joe Turner:  “He had a voice so big that all he had to do was open his mouth and get out of the way”.

The same could be said of Sory Kandia Kouyaté.  He  was from the small West African country of Guinea, formerly the French colony of La Guinée.  He came from a long family of griots, the traditional storytellers (there was no written language in the past, so these guys were the oral historians of their day)  Guinea was known for embracing a policy of “Authenticité” in promoting the traditional arts and music of the country.  Kouyaté has that big griot voice that, even unamplified, can travel for great distances.  He died young, but left a huge legacy for later artists to emulate and celebrate.  He was at the peak of his powers in 1958, when Guinea won independence from France.  Here is Kouyate in a 1973 recording:

Various Artists:  Sofrito:  International Soundclash      Strut

The food picture above looks disgusting, but actually is tantalizing & delicious:   Sofrito is a seasoned lard that is used as a base for many traditional dishes, both in Spain and other Mediterranean dishes, as well as Cuban and Caribbean cuisine.  It features garlic, saffron, onion, coriander, cilantro, green bell peppers, and other ingredients (   It makes shrimp, veggies, fish, and everything it touches taste really good.  The new collection on the great Strut label features music from Haiti, Colombia, Dominica, and Congo, all countries where sofrito is regularly enjoyed.  Food and music go together in many tropical countries.  Songs about food can also be thinly-veiled songs about sex.

The cut I like most is a Congolese version of the Cuban classic song “El Manicero” (The Peanut Vendor), a song that goes back to 1920s Cuba.  Here it’s called “El Manicero Se Va” (the peanut vendor has left)   Here it’s done by a Congolese band, Tchiko Tchikaya & Afro Festival.  I have heard many versions of this immortal song, but few versions (Rolando Laserie excepted) can match the joy of this one.  Thank goodness Strut had brought this old song back into our lives.