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Music Review: Various Artists – In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2

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I remember one summer at camp that a friend of mine had The Joshua Tree playing non-stop in our cabin. It was as though I was hearing music for the first time. When I returned from summer camp, I headed to the record store and purchased every single U2 album available. I was up to Zooropa by that point and excitedly awaited the arrival of Pop.

A fan for life, I’ve gone to U2 concerts faithfully and purchased each album, single and B-side (there must be a song I haven’t heard yet!) from the incredibly unreachable Unforgettable Fire singles to the astonishing singles from Achtung Baby (“Salome” may well be one of their best B-sides).

Bono and the boys always stood for just a little more than the music. Albums like War clearly had a political slant and the band was always pointed in that direction. Bono became a celebrity all over again for his work with Africa and One.org.

Because of the band’s work with Africa and the global AIDS crisis, it’s no wonder that Africa would celebrate U2. So In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 is a more than fitting tribute to a band that always looked beyond their own borders at the broader.

We are closer than we think to each other. To problems. To solutions.

The jacket of the compilation begins with those words and a note from Shawn Amos about the impact U2 has had and how U2’s songs “belong to Africa.” Hearing the traditional tunes reworked by a set of marvellous African artists, I can’t help but agree with his assessment.

The album’s jacket also contains information about each artist on the album. There is also a fact sheet pertaining to the artist’s country of origin, breaking down the nation’s population, languages, main exports, major issues (i.e. child trafficking, malaria, etc.), and success stories. Each entry also has a website the reader can consult for more information.

Beginning with a remarkable version of “Mysterious Ways” by Benin’s Angelique Kidjo, In the Name of Love leads the listener on a breathtaking journey of U2’s music. The second son of Ali Farka Touré, Vieux Farka Touré of Mali, takes on “Bullet the Blue Sky” and turns it into a funky masterpiece. Guinea’s Ba Cissoko’s take on “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is touching and gives the song new meaning.

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” never ceases to bring up strong emotions for me, but Vusi Mahlasela’s interpretation of the tune made it all the more powerful and I had to fight back the tears. Known as “The Voice,” South Africa’s Mahlasela is known for his strong song-writing talents which often highlight the politics of the region.

The classic introduction of “Where the Streets Have No Name” is freshened up by drummer Tony Allen of Nigeria, transforming it with tribal rhythms and stellar vocals from Sandra Nkake. The backing vocals on this one are affecting and fill out the song superbly. The communication of joyfulness through music is never more evident than with Allen’s version of this one.

Cheikh Lo’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” takes the original and turns it upside down, using Senegalese and Afro-funk to rework U2’s original tune. Keziah Jones’ take of “One” successfully plays with the pace of the song and speeds things up, doubling up on the tempo.

When Les Nubians gets a hold of “With Or Without You,” the sister duo of Helene and Celia Faussart from Cameroon give the song a slinky sort of feel and use programming to infuse it with African pop and hip hop music. The Soweto Gospel Choir’s rendition of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” is a natural fit, as is Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars’ take on “Seconds.”

The African Underground All-Stars give “Desire” the hip hop treatment, infusing it with rap and African guitar. The beat is addictive and the bass line plays with the original to come up with an alluring new sound. The compilation’s last track, “Love is Blindness,” is handled gracefully by Angola’s unforgettable Waldemar Bastos.

In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 is an incredible collection of songs that serves as the perfect window to some of Africa’s finest artists. As the album played, I found myself learning more about Africa through the jubilation and celebration in the songs. Africa can often seem a very dark place, but there is hope in the land and the people feel it. This compilation is a demonstration of that hope from the continent’s finest artists.

A portion of the proceeds from this CD release will benefit the global fund. For more information visit www.theglobalfund.org or www.data.org.

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