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Music Review: Various Artists – The Rough Guide To Afrobeat Revival

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The Rough Guide to Afrobeat Revival is a great stepping stone to anyone who is new to this type music. Although the music is considered “revival,” the sound has a very heavy 70s Funk influence. Anyone who is a fan of jazz/funk rhythms, or Latin beats can find a track on this album they would like.

A reoccurring theme to afrobeat is the political undertones; the music has become one form of getting a clear message out to the people. The best song that really emotes the struggles and hardship is "Ibajekbe (What If)" because of it's clear message. A song like “Think Africa” somehow combines painful living conditions with a catchy funk rhythm accompanying it. Similarly, the song “Fela Day” sounds like an ironic “come visit Africa” commercial singing about how some live the better life while the poor suffer. Even if some of the album is sung in an African chant-like English, the English is understandable even if several African terms are used dispersed within the English.

The whole second disk features the work of Kokolo (also known as the Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra). The second disk is Kokolo’s 2002 album More Consideration. Their second album expanded from their first album “Fuss and Fight” because they had more time and resources to create a solid album. All of the tracks are strong, but the clear standouts are “Root to the Fruit” for its large orchestral sound and catchy rhythm and “Gimme Yaya” for it’s strong solo instrumental work.

Afrobeat music tends to be lengthy, between six to eight minutes, and in a society with a short-attention span, the album selects a lot of songs that are longer than eight minutes. Since the album is a “rough” collection of afrobeats, the music should have had a better variation in length to attract a wider audience. For example, the song “Think Africa” has a radio version that is 3:25, but they selected a version that is seven minutes. Most of the second disk by Kokolo would be more appropriate for anyone who feels like music can drag on and want something different after four minutes. The biggest culprit “Fela Day” is 13 minutes of afrobeat funk; the song finds its formula by the first 25 seconds and then repeats that same formula several times before getting to a verse. It continues to repeat the term “suffering” incessantly. Also, as much as “Gimme Yaya” is a fun song, most of the words of the song consist of numbers and saying “Yaya” which can get redundant to some.

One rare flaw that isn’t often seen on albums is the fact that there is one same song on both disks. The track “Trouble Come, Trouble Go” appears on both disks and there is no difference. If anyone is downloading single tracks off of the album, buying both is a waste of money.

There is an energetic funk about afrobeat music. Anyone who is a fan of traditional African sounds, funk music, or even Latin/Caribbean sounds should definitely consider the album. There are similar sounds to bands like the Buena Vista Social Club and Cuban music and anyone who wants to expand their range in world music should consider it. The Rough Guide to Afrobeat Revival is both a good value for the price and a great selection of different artists. Anyone with a real short attention span should consider the second disk and stray away from the longer tracks of disk one.

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About Michael Pascua