The Upshot: A smooth ride through faintly exoticized dance floor forms, enjoyable but clearly a commercial flight.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
This fourth in a series of compilations heads towards the dance floor, with sleek, densely orchestrated cuts that reflect a late-1970s migration of West African musicians into contact with the slicker surroundings of Paris and London. Most of the artists represented here are from Cameroon, though Jake Sollo (ex. of the Monkees) hails from nearby Niger, and most spent at least some time in Europe. The tracks are tight, polished and gleeful, riding booty bumping basslines through big pile-ups of jazz band brass lines, come-hither vocal choruses and synthesized strings.
Here for instance is Makossa master Manu Dibango twitching and grooving for eight-plus minutes, against a thumping, xylophone plinking, sax-wailing motorized vision called “Sun Explosion,” which, like long nights at a Paris disco, goes on and on without losing speed or intensity. Jake Sollo’s “Tinini Yan” is rougher and funkier, a bumptious burping bass swaggering, a vocal chorus taunting sing-song-ily, guitar twitching in the margins. Eko’s “Bowa a Mba Ngebe” swings wide into expansive, communal good feelings with its swelling vocals, its uplifting blasts of sax and trumpet. Throughout, African musicians conjure the pixelated funky pointillism, the siren sexuality of American disco icons like Chic and Donna Summer, though with a warm African positivity.
As in the West, the lines between funk and disco blur, but these tracks are glossy and well-groomed rather than raw. Africa Airways is a smooth ride through faintly exoticized dance floor forms, enjoyable but clearly a commercial flight.
DOWNLOAD: “Sun Explosion” “Tinini Yan”