Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pick Your Afro-Pop

Purchased the Vampire Weekend CD a few weeks ago and it is good stuff. A little shorter in time than I had hoped for, but I believe with their style of music less is more. Pouring over countless reviews and blogs on this release and the band’s meteoric rise, I continuously saw the same term lined up as either a perceived influence on their style: Afro-pop. I guess this is one genre, sub-genre, whatever, that appears pretty self-explanatory, but I honestly don’t have many miles in this area. But here are a few artists which probably fall in line:

Youssou N’ Dour: One of Africa’s most famous singer-percussionists, Youssou recently released Rokku Mi Rokka, which received much critical acclaim last year (#30 on Rolling Stone’s 2007 Albums of the Year), but largely got overlooked in the 4th quarter blitz of releases last year. Click here for a track from the album courtesy of All Songs Considered (you'll also find a track from Extra Golden--see below).

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi: I first heard this Zimbabwe musician’s “Hear Me Lord” on a Laser’s Edge (R.I.P.) sampler a few years back. This song has stuck on my Ipod ever since. Makes me think of Rusted Root. I have downloaded a few more of his songs and he is definitely worth a listen--very upbeat.

Andy Palacio: Unfortunately, I first found out about Palacio this past weekend on an NPR podcast. He passed away of an apparent stroke on January 19th. Although he did not call Africa home, this Belizean musician turned out years of Carribean music with significant African influences.

Extra Golden: One of my favorite late –’07 finds. This DC--Nairobi collaboration has the perfect mix of stateside and abroad. The beats never falter though—no way they could originate from anywhere else than the motherland. My favorite is "It's Not Easy" from OK-Oyot System (stream it here).

These artists are quite different from VW, which probably hearkens more to Graceland, but you can see some similar components here and there. Anyway, always good to have a new artist/release open doors into a whole new style—or continent—of music. If you have any Afro-Pop or other world music-influenced bands to recommend, please do so in the comments.

By the way, I'll be seeing Vampire Weekend open up for The Walkmen at Bottletree in early March, so look forward to a review of the show.

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