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Review: The Rough Guide to African Guitar Legends

Driftwood’s had a few recent posts focusing on West African guitar-driven music, so how about an overview? Unfortuntately, it turns out that the “African Guitar Legends” is a little more expansive than can be encompassed on a single Rough Guide. Add a comment if you can think of another guitarist that should have made the collection!

The Rough Guide to African Guitar Legends
[Rough Guide (2011)]

A compilation devoted to African guitarists is an especially good idea and one that’s overdue. Unfortunately, The Rough Guide to African Guitar Legends goes only part way in making good on the promise implied in the title. A second CD by Syran Mbenza & Ensemble Rumba Kongo serves as a good tribute to the legendary Franco, and certainly makes the purchase of the album worth considering. However, why repeat one of that album’s tracks on the first album when other players such as Louis Mhlanga, Sekou Diabaté (of Bembeya Jazz), Berthelemy Attisso (of Orchestra Baobab), Boubacar Traoré, and others aren’t featured? Also, why no Malagasy players? Then there are the selections themselves, a few of which are questionable choices. Oliver Mtukudzi definitely deserves to be on the compilation, but “Andinzwi” is an unusual choice. The Franco & OK Jazz track is, quite apart from being merely three minutes, not the best showcase of his skills. On a more positive note, the album does feature excellent tracks by Djelimady Tounkara (of Rail Band), Ali Farka Touré, Shiyani Ngcobo, Tinariwen, Jean Bosco Mwenda and his devotee Henry Makobi, and others, and the bonus CD does compensate for the compilation’s weaker moments.

—Paul-Emile Comeau (Comeauville, NS, Canada)

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