By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Two similarly exciting antidotes to American insularity are Doubet Gnahoré's sub-Saharan songbook Na Afriki and Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective's Wátina. Both albums (from New York's newish Cumbancha imprint) offer compelling vocalists wrapped in seductive melodies and world-class production values. Doubet, from the Ivory Coast, sings protest material in the tribal dialects of many war-torn African nations, just as Miriam Makeba once did. Songs sung in Wolof, Lingala, Dida, or Xhosa interrogate polygamy, incest, and the lust for money, all chirped in a light, silky contralto almost too pretty for such topics.
Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective
As for Wátina, the Garifuna people of Belizedescended from runaway slaveshave a language and music that doesn't sound quite like anything else from Africa or Latin America. Some of their choral harmonies evoke the polyphonic voicings of a kora or balafon. Here, "Lidan Aban" has a prominent reggae influence, while "Gagánbadibá" mimics the propulsive sway of Afrobeat. But Palacio's acute ear and touch always keep his songs in a category more rhythmically and melodically subtle than either.