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Various Artists

Afrikya Volume 1

A Musical Journey Through Africa

(Rasa Music; US: 5 Dec 2006; UK: Available as import)

This album was co-compiled by a chef and a DJ. The chef’s name is Marcus Samuelsson, and Afrikya Volume 1 is a companion to his African-food cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine. Cue bad joke on the subject of the music being “easily digestible,” which it is. Afrikya Volume 1 wanders carelessly from South Africa to Mali to Cape Verde without expecting the listener to have heard music from any of these places before—old favourites like Ladysmith Black Mambazo are jumbled up against newcomers like New York’s Bole2Harlem and there’s one really nasty violation of Miriam Makeba and the Philani Mothers by Kid Loco, who throws backbeats around as if he’s punching the singers in the gut. The blurb calls it “a hip, contemporary musical celebration that completes an amazing adventure” but the desire to be hip and contemporary has pretty much squashed away everything that might have been amazing about the adventure. Amazing would have been music taken from Africa itself, not filtered through the workaday world music section of the DJ’s local record store. My optimism gene tells me they’re tricking us with this PR grot and secretly saving the amazing for Volume 2.

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