Diffusion Rools

Below find several of the culture-specific exotics I catch up on when the rock bands get thin. What's new is the culture-unspecific exotics. Can it be . . . world music?

Synchro Series
Two vintage Nigeria-only albums back-to-back, both previously unknown to me: 1982's mild and sweet Gbe Kini Ohun De and 1983's Synchro Feelings, "a medley of remixes of earlier tracks, dub versions and outtakes from the Island [Synchro System] sessions." Not the ideal way to ease peak Ade into the American marketplace. I hope it's surpassed—may I mention Bobby, Ajoo, Check "E," and of course The Message? But the American marketplace being what it is, I wouldn't count on it. B PLUS

Lined up all in a row, the half-assed headliners they've supported for over a decade —Fun-Da-Mental, Transglobal Underground, Asian Dub Foundation, Banco de Gaia (no Three Musta-phas Three?)—compel one to admit that in the U.K., attempted world-music bands aren't the New Age saps who spread their agape over our folk circuit like tofu mayonnaise. Techno plus ragga plus bhangra plus West Asia plus Eastern Europe equals fully multicultural fusions that invariably misfire in the end. But this one sparks like I'd hoped Fun-Da-Mental would—which means it sounds like nothing I've heard. Nonstop dance drive, Roma clarinet jazz, violin sans bluegrass or sonata, ragga-flavored be-cause the singer's Jamaican. Plus they named their debut after a medieval trombone normally spelled with one T. A MINUS

Electro Bamako
When white Parisians meddle in the music of African Francophones, I shudder. I recall Salif Keita's fused keybs, Angelique Kidjo's dull disco, Lokua Kanza studying le jazz in la France, sideburned sidemen and crotch-pumping yé-yé girls anonymous to me. Minelli is an obscure alt-pop lifer with no background in Malian music. He'd barely met Salif's identically surnamed former backup singer when a mutual acquaintance importuned him to build her the sampled jazz-lounge-reggae-jungle-bambara-soundtrack settings here. Yet the mesh is blessed whether it aspires to beatwise pastiche or tuneful corn about aiding les enfants. Neither half would mean much without the other. As it is, however, Minelli could be a Diabate, and Keita sounds like she's spent her life strolling the Boulevard Saint-Germain. I wonder whether they've ever tried going to bed. If I were them I'd be scared. A MINUS

(Wrasse import)
How irritating—uncounted hours of music out there and this duplicates four tracks on Rough Guide's highlife comp. Makes one doubt how deep the genre goes. Pluses: brighter mastering, original version of Osita Osadebe's "Osondi Owendi." Minuses: multiple titles by Osadebe, Celestine Ukwu (including one repeat), Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson (ditto), Dr. Victor Olaiya (ditto), and Sir Victor Awaifo (ditto; also, me and the annotator thought it was Uwaifo.) Clearly, all of them deserve dedicated comps. Because, actually, I don't doubt how deep the genre goes—the four lesser lights in the middle only amplify the glory of its grace and groove. Voices caress, guitars strut and undulate, horns butt in. A MINUS

Electric Version
Earns its buzz. Tremendous craft, winning enthusiasm. You'll remember every song when it comes on—maybe even when it doesn't, hum hum. But if it has a point beyond whistling at the void, it declines to mention what that point might be. Also, I wish the sparingly deployed Neko Case would abandon her faux-country career. Carl Newman likes a lot of things about British pop that I don't, starting with vocal filters (his seems built-in) and that cute accent (signifying not class but artifice as a virtue). Is this what Zumpano sounds like? Who cares? B PLUS

The War on Errorism
(Fat Wreck Chords)
Unlike most punk lifers, they've always yukked it up, accepted outsiders, and thought about their feelings. So I was pleased rather than surprised to learn that they'd made their politics explicit. Their attacks on religion and hater hating are right on, and why shouldn't the guy who reads Zinn and Chomsky and then votes Nader be confused? Concomitantly, I was disappointed rather than surprised to find that the songs about their personal world are deeper than those about our political one. So I'm glad quadriplegic Nubs gets her impolitic two minutes. And my hopes for all humanity leap when a boy and girl fall in love over the vinyl they both own. A MINUS

Yoruba rites, Holiness Christianity, and witchcraft were all banned by the British, and compiler Dick Spottswood is probably right to insist that calypsonians who mined them masked their commitments—that concealed beneath satire and critique were sympathy and support. But even when Lion or Caresser sings in Yoruba, the camouflage starts with the music, the formulaic charm of which depends on stock melodies and well-rehearsed orchestras. As un-African as any contemporary black Caribbean style save the politest danzón, calypso exemplified what the old ways resisted. Artists may have been attracted to those ways, but not like they were to calypso's urban airs. A concept that subsumes such mixed motives is exploitation, which I mean unpejoratively, although a religious person might demur. Why not play to the rustics who guarded tradition as you exoticized them for your core audience? Why not hot up your formula with the spice of their lives—a gospel chorus, a little Yoruba? What a great idea for a novelty record. B PLUS

Next Page »
New York Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • May
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu