Various Artists: Frikyiwa Collection 1 / Latin Travels
For a number of years the Six Degrees label has done much to advance awareness of global electronica, which blends traditional world music (apparently defined in Music Industry Parlance as any music that did not originate in America or Western Europe) and modern electronica and club music. Deep Forest, Peter Gabriel, and Mickey Hart (among others) have done their bit to promote world music with a modern touch to the masses, but their music is still Western at its core, merely influenced by world beat, not rooted in it. Six Degrees is one of those who has given us the real thing, through their Traveler series of global electronica remix compliations and their lineup of albums by Bob Holroyd, Bebel Gilberto, Euphoria, and Banco de Gaia. The music they offer is more a merger of equals, one part world beat, one part modern keyboards and dance beats. Frikyiwa and Latin Travels are worthy successors to this label's collection of compilations.
Frikyiwa is a concept collection that highlights the music of West Africa, especially Mali (Frikyiwa refers to Malian percussion music). French producer Frederic Galliano chose songs from the collection of Cobalt Records, a French world music label, and comissioned producers from all over the world to do with them what they do best. The product of these collaborations is a subtle blending of the old and new that for the most part bears more similarity to the music of David Byrne and Peter Gabriel than Deep Forest and Enigma. The original music comes first, with the electronics providing the dressing. At times, as in the DJ Spider remix of Ibrahim Hamma Dicko's "Sida", the added music is so subtly mixed in it's hard to tell what was original and what is new. Conversely, Doctor L's remix of Dicko's "Baba" take greater liberties with Dicko's voice coming in from behind a laid back acid jazz beat. There is a similar contrast in the remixes of the two songs by Nahawa Doumbia: Aqua Bassina's take on "Yankaw" has a trance-like groove to it but still preserves most of the original; I.G Culture's reconfiguration of "Fatien" gives Doumia's voice a more frenetic jungle backdrop. These are the only artists represented twice each, though there are two reggae mixes (vocal and dub) of Djigui's "Ladilikan" by Natty Brass Sound System for no apparent reason except that they are each at least half the length of the other tracks on the CD. The mix of styles, both in the music chosen and the producers who rework them, is broad and works well throughout. One of the best is Abdolaye Diabate's "Djoro" mixed by the Tokyo 246 Av Project -- the percussion and vocals suggest both Japanese and African music, almost leaving one wondering who mixed whom.
Latin Travels is more similar to the Traveler series: it is a sampler of Latin and Latin-influenced music by artists in the Six Degrees stable. There are some remixes, but for the most part these are originals by artists that represent the "Afro Latin Disapora," as the label calls it. The artists represented come from many points of the globe -- Paris, London, Germany, Brazil, California -- but they all have the Latin beat in common. It is a more dance-oriented collection than Frikyiwa. How could it not be? All the Latin dance styles are reresented here from the salsa in St. Germaine's "Soul Salsa Soul" to the Fila Brazilia mix of "Royal Rumba" by Robin Jones and João Bosco de Oliveira to the futuristic drum and bass infected bossa nova sound in Zuco 103's "Brazilectro." Some have less obvious connections to Latin music, such as Terminal 3's funky "Blue Eyed Beat Banging Soul" and the African drummming in "Drumming up a Storm" by Bob Holroyd. Nevertheless, Latin Travels is an international party record from start to finish.
Frikyiwa is a contemplative record. There's a groove, but it does not always command you to dance. But that is fine. By designating "Collection 1," producer Galliano indicates that he is planning similar projects in the future. Let us hope so. On the other hand, Latin Travels is all about the dance, which is quite appropriate. Put it on, hit "play", and start shaking it.