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CD REVIEW: Stars of Afro-Pop
By Ben Ohmart - 12/13/2001 - 04:20 PM EST

Artist: Band: Stars of Afro
Album: Pop
CD Review: The 56 minutes of Afro pop come in a 12 track diet, removed from a variety of other albums and countries. The stars & cuts include:

1. Cheikh N’Digel Lo - M’Beddemi
2. Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca - Nganga Kisi
3. Cesaria Evora - Lua Nha Testemunha
4. Youssou N’Dour - Djamil
5. Franco - Mario
6. Esther Wahome - Furahia
7. Manu Dibango - Abelley Sphere
8. Zap Mama - Mr. Brown
9. Toure Kunda - Emma
10. Hanitra - Habakabaka
11. Papa Wemba - M’Fono Yami
12. Suthukazi - Isoka Lami

That’s a mouthful, eh? The least hardest to pronounce has to be one of the most original on the cd - Zap Mama’s ‘Mr. Brown’ is all vocal instruments, from beat to mock trumpets. Far removed from the Fat Boys, this is fun lite rock from a group of ‘get down!’ shouters who have finally recognized the human throat for what it is, and Can be.

The disc opener from Cheikh N’Digel Lo is a delightful dig into bass that keeps grinding its way down minimally, while the flute and vocal take the extreme lighter notes, as if we are witnessing the official soundtrack album to a very specialized or secretive group of underground funkmeisters.

The flipside of that comes from Cesaria Evora’s ‘Lua Nha Testemunha’ which dances along like ragtime at an acoustic guitar convention.

One of the most surprising on the cd is Franco’s ‘Mario’ because it sure sounds like Latin power to me. Not just the whole band sound, but the way the vocals flow with non-stop energy. Maybe it is Latin; I don’t know. I just know that when the female backing voices pop by close to the mic, I’m ready to throw all my Cuban bop away for a chance on more Afro pop.

Jazz, pop, rock, world, traditional, Latin, African, there’s hardly a music invented that hasn’t somehow crept its way into the proceedings here. Great starting point if you’re looking for something really Different that’s not stiff, and that doesn’t try to latch onto old ways completely just because they’re old. Try some.

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