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Reviews: The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco and The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Africa

The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco
The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Africa
[World Disc (2012)]

Those intrepid anthologists at Rough Guide continue to crank out top-drawer, regionally themed compilations of the musics of the world. Two of their latest releases focus on offerings out of Africa. The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco does include one track by the most familiar Moroccan Group, the Master Musicians of Joujouka, but its emphasis is on 21st century ensembles that blend styles such as hip hop (Fnaire’s raucous Sah Raoul and H-Kayne’s guttural “Jil-Jdid”), funk (London based U-Cef’s powerful “Boolandrix”), and electronica (Amira Sagati’s jittery “El Aloua”) with traditional Moroccan percussion/vocal styles. Maalem Said Damir and Gnawa Allstars exemplify the pervasive influence of the Gnawan Sufi sect on Moroccan popular music. In addition to the Master Musicians of Joujouka, traditional Moroccan music is represnted by influential composer/vocalist Samy Elmaghribi (“Mal Hbibi Malou”) and southern Moroccan ensemble Compagnes Musicales du Tafilalet (Compagnie El Haman/Ya Rijal L’bled”). The Moroccan disc is paired with an bonus album by contemporary Moroccan rock-rappers Groupe Magazan. Their slick pop sound incorporates synthesizers, processed electric guitars, and violin.

The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Africa casts a broad net to survey groups throughout Africa that employed varying mixes of electric guitars and horns during the fertile period between the late 1960s and early 1980s. Although the artists clearly reflected trends in Europe and the U.S., each provided their own spin on psychedelic music, a term so all-inclusive that it has become an almost meaningless category. Some of the most seminal African guitar bands are represented, including Mali’s venerable Rail Band (“Wale Numa Lambaliya”), Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab (“Nijaay”), and Benin’s Orchestra Poly-Rhythmo (“Pardon”). Nigerian soul star Victor Olayia’s funk outing “Let Yourself Go” is pure James Brown, while Guiinean ensemble Orchestra de la Pailotte’s “Kadia Blues” is a slow, quiet minor key exercise. Tanzanian combo Milmani Park Orchestra’s breezy “Taxi Driver” features smooth vocal harmonies and slinky electric guitar flourishes. The bonus disc for this set is Nigerian guitarist Victor Uwaifo’s 1971 album Ekassa. Uwaifo’s unstoppable groove is augmented by a wide variety of instrumental textures, including flute, organ, clean and distorted electric guitars, and a variety of percussion textures.

—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)

U-Cef – Boolandrix:

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