[16 January 2013]
Rhythms Del Mundo, a musical project established by Artists Project Earth, was developed to heighten recognition of climate issues. According to the organization’s website, Rhythm del Mundo has funded more than 300 environmental projects. Africa, the collective’s fourth effort, arrived in November 2012. Africa features pop, rock and soul favorites by popular artists combined with African instrumental and vocal stylings. Featuring the likes of Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars alongside some of Africa’s best musicians, the results yield a solid, enjoyable affair.
“Viva La Vida” kicks off the album soundly, infusing originality into the Coldplay no. 1 hit. Opening with African vocals and both pitched and non-pitched instruments, Rhythm Del Mundo compliment Chris Martin’s original vocals tastefully and creatively. Beyoncé‘s “I Miss You” proceeds, only excerpting the R&B singer’s chorus. African vocalists take up the verses themselves, creating welcome contrast from the original and keeping the momentum rolling.
“She Said” comes by way of British rapper/singer Plan B (Ben Drew) and 2010 album The Defamation of Strickland. Styled with more instrumental African influence than previous cuts, much of Plan B’s original sung/rapped vocals are retained. “She Said” is solid without being revolutionary. “I Need A Dollar” similarly is pleasant, but with a majority of Aloe Blacc’s original retained, it feels as if it needs more ‘contrast’. An African break section infuses some originality and necessary contrast.
“Not Afraid” (Eminem), like “Miss You”, excerpts the original, only featuring Eminem’s sung chorus. The rhymes are new. While they lack the distinction of the original, they are refreshing in the sense they offer contrast. By the end, even Eminem’s hook has been replaced, with the Rhythms Del Mundo artists confirming their artistic status.
“Timshel” retains a healthy amount of Mumford & Sons’s original (from Sigh No More), but manages to make the folk cut internationally enticing with African vocals. “Is This Love” seems a perfect marriage of African rhythm and lazy Reggae. Malian artist Rokia Traoré delivers raspy, nuanced vocals that successfully convey the chilled-back vibe of Bob Marley’s original. “Under The Bridge”, a Red Hot Chili Peppers classic, is respectable in remixed form. Frontman Anthony Kiedis maintains a large presence, accentuated by African vocals most notably at the conclusion.
“Mykonos”, from Fleet Foxes’s 2008 EP Sun Giant EP, reinvigorates Africa. While “Timshel” was solid if unexceptional, “Mykonos” feels more natural for remixing purposes. Fleet Foxes’s alt-folk combined with Rhythm del Mundo’s stylistic cues seem a perfect union. Maintaining momentum, R.E.M.‘s “Losing My Religion” receives excellent treatment from the Ali Farka Touré Band. Michael Stipe has his say liberally, but an array of percussion (including mallet instruments) and background vocals provide additional color.
Folk cut “I Am Because” lends itself well to remix like the majority, but comes off less enthralling than some of the best. “Grenade” atones, delivering one of the effort’s most acclaimed interpretations. The no. 1 pop hit by Bruno Mars receives superb interpretations featuring prominent use of percussion and background vocals. Closing cut “John And Yoko” once more features Rokia Traoré sensational, nuanced voice. “John and Yoko” concludes Africa solidly.
Overall, Africa is an enjoyable affair that benefits and important cause. It is not perfect, but it rebirths modern hits and classics alike creatively. Some of the remixes are triumphs while others are good but less distinct or memorably ultimately. Winners like opener “Viva La Vida” or penultimate cut “Grenade” truly epitomize valedictory moments that make Africa such a sound affair.