Africa to Jamaica to Africa

Various Artists – Putumayo Presents … African Reggae
Various Artists

African Reggae (Putumayo PUT 287-2, 2009)

Africa has always been celebrated as the spiritual home of roots reggae, so it’s no surprise that the continent’s homegrown reggae scene has been going strong since Africans tuned in to both the consciousness and sheer joy of Jamaican greats like Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley.

Compilations of African reggae being nothing new, Putumayo’s foray succeeds smartly by showcasing a number of lesser-known artists (some completely new even to an old [wiki:reggae] and African music head like me) and elaborating on the reggae basics just enough to keep the vibe fresh and engaging.

Though superstars Alpha Blondy and the late Lucky Dube are conspicuously absent, the lineup includes the modern roots finery of vets like Ismael Isaac and Serges Kassy, Zoro’s melding of hip hop, [wiki:blues] and [wiki:reggae] pulse on “Jabulani” and rousing group vocals atop the hard-hitting riddim of “Bo Ten Qu’Luta” by One Love Family.

The sonic space between Africa and Jamaica is lessened through Majek Fashek’s lengthy reggae/Afrobeat jam, Nino Galissa’s funky, kora-laced “Krebo Cheo” and emerging griot Ba Cissoko plucking away alongside Tiken Jah Fakoly. Kwame Bediako recalls the gravelly vocal style of reggae Godfather Joe Higgs on “Steppin’ Into Zion” and Bingui Jaa Jammy’s “Congo Natty” is a brief, peppy skanker laced with crisp percussion and flute accents.

The disc is a lean 41 minutes but the scope is wide enough (Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and South Africa are represented) and the tracks high quality enough to make this a dandy addition to any reggae collection.

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