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Various Artists

The Greatest Songs Ever: West Africa

(Petrol; US: 25 Sep 2007; UK: Unavailable)

The messages of West Africa: The Greatest Songs Ever come from the call and answer tradition. They speak of unity, wisdom, joy, and suffering. The album is a compilation of African musicians sharing their stories, but that’s what makes this album more than just a compilation. Their message and their purpose are meant just as much for their own brothers, friends, and Africans as they are for their listeners the world over. Some songs lack the distinct West African “sound” that is prevalent in other tracks in the album, but they are still equally powerful and full of soul. I was especially moved by the song “Living Like a Refugee” by the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars. The name is self-explanatory as to the song’s subject, but that is the only expected part. This is a gem wrapped in the record, between groovy African pop and R&B. This particular song transported me to a house next to a dirt road with family and friends sitting around listening to the tales of a sagacious grandfather. I think it’s because we all have family, and we each cherish moments like these; the album does well to hit this chord.

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