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Joseph Kabasele - Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music

Congolese music is characterized by sweet melodies and Latin rhythms. Kabasele gave birth to that sound. This two-CD set reflects the enormous influence he had at home and throughout Africa. Determined to create a non-colonial style, Kallé, as he became known, formed African Jazz in 1953 and began incorporating Afro-Cuban styles like the rumba and cha-cha, giving them a distinctly Congolese spin. Over the next 15 years, Kallé’s band—which featured big names like guitarist Dr. Nico, saxophonist Manu Dibango and singer Rochereau—recorded hundreds of popular recordings. Many are included here, including Baila , boasting Kallé’s appealing tenor vocals, and Table Ronde , with its cascading guitar...
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Rokia Traoré - Beautiful Africa

A genuinely boundary-busting artist, Traoré doesn’t follow in the footsteps of fellow Malian singers like Salif Keita or Oumou Sangaré. Thoroughly modern, she bridges songs in English, French and her native Bambara with rock instrumentation and offbeat collaborations. On her 2003 album, Bowmboï , Traoré recorded with the Kronos Quartet. For her latest, the statuesque singer has teamed up with PJ Harvey’s producer John Parish for a sound that is rock-tinged, yet distinctly African. The album features as much Gretsch as n’goni, the traditional Malian lute, and Traoré isn’t afraid to add some distorted lead guitar. Striking dynamics abound throughout, from the whisper-to-a-scream Kouma to the s...
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Feature Article: Africa's Cult Musician - Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Feature Article: Africa's Cult Musician - Fela Anikulapo Kuti
When one of Africa’s most celebrated musicians receives visitors at his home in the Nigerian capital of Lagos, he lounges in little more than a striped bathing suit, which tends to slip down in the back. But when Fela Anikulapo Kuti jumps on stage to perform, his costume is a study in flamboyance. He wears a blue jump suit and pants embroidered with saxophones. His act is equally colorful. He sways his saxophone and waves his arms to keep his 27 musicians in line. Between blasts of his multicolored sax, Fela sings in pidgin English the provocative lyrics that have aroused the ire of the military government of his native Nigeria—and which have won him the title of the Afrobeat King, as critic...
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Feature Article: A vital and vibrant beat - African music in Canada

Feature Article: A vital and vibrant beat - African music in Canada
Nadine McNulty remembers well the day that K’naan appeared at Toronto’s Afrofest. The year was 2000 and McNulty, as artistic director, had booked the then-unknown Somali-Canadian rapper to appear in the afternoon on the main stage at the popular outdoor festival. Rain showers failed to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm for K’naan, who performed with just one backup vocalist and a tape playback. Recalls McNulty: “It was drizzling and here was this young guy just kicking it in front of this sea of umbrellas. It’s amazing to see how he’s now taken the world by storm.” K’naan, this year’s Juno Award winner for Songwriter and Artist of the Year, is a major Canadian star and international crossover ac...
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Feature Article: Youssou N’Dour and the beauty of Africa

Feature Article: Youssou N’Dour and the beauty of Africa
Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour is a global superstar, a singer with a stunning, ululating voice so rich and emotive that it transcends language. At home, he’s a national hero so revered that his popularity overshadows that of star soccer players and the country’s charismatic president. So imagine the devastation N’Dour felt when Egypt, his deeply spiritual 2004 album, was denounced by Senegalese religious leaders and rejected by Senegalese fans and retailers. He had recorded the album, collaborating with an Egyptian orchestra, to reveal a more tolerant face of Islam in the wake of 9/11. “I was really frustrated at the perceptions of people at home,” admitted N’Dour recently, “because I was praisin...
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