Drop The Debt : Various Artists

Drop the Debt

Various Artists

Drop the Debt (Wrasse Records : WRASS 095)

Music allied to a cause can sometimes be a disappointing enterprise. Are a bunch of egos hi-jacking music to promote their sagging profiles? Occasionally such projects suffer from musical blandness, which may not help the cause much. Thankfully, this CD manages to escape all of these pitfalls. It is a varied and constantly listenable album and anyone who parts with the asking price is contributing to a more than worthy campaign. And all the tracks are exclusive to this CD.

Artists from Brazil to Senegal, Cameroon to Venezuela join with each other in addressing and opposing a common problem. So, as you might expect, there are many diverse musical voices sharing the same space. Fernanda Abreu & MV Bill blend voices, which are partly submerged in the drum, dominated mix. Electronic and acoustic musics sit easily side by side. The huge brassy arrangements of Columbia’s Toto la Momposina urge on the equally huge, spirited vocals which declare that: ‘We Have to end the debt/So we can move forward’.

Brazil and Ivory Coast join forces in a reggae based polemic. Tiken Jah Fakoly & Tribo de Jah “Baba” declare that their ‘parents die in poverty’ working the fields while the tv coldly states that ‘the country’s success depends on farming’. Meiway, also from the Ivory Coast, reiterate the message ‘cancel the debt’ on Assez’, using a deceptively relaxed groove.

The cool reggae and brass of Zedess sound equally relaxed but the words again are angry on ‘Cadeau Empoisonne’, accusing the World Bank and the IMF who ‘were born to hand out poisoned chalices’. Massila Sound System incorporate a sample of Thomas Sankara’s passionate speech, made shortly before his assassination, into their mix of raw guitar and choppy electronic rhythms.

This contrasts with the spectre of blandness, which intrudes briefly on Africa South’s ‘The Third World Cries Everyday’, a track that has neither verbal nor musical passion. Fortunately, Oliver Mtukudze can always be relied upon to deliver both. His ‘Murimi Munhu’ sets his own gruffly distinctive voice against a gently melodic backdrop of guitars and female vocals. It is capable of moving you whether or not you speak his language. Like much of the music here it transcends linguistic barriers and speaks to the whole body.

There are many styles represented on this CD united by the same sense of injustice and every track has earned its place. Definitely recommended.

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Author: Paul Donnelly