Mice that Roar
My mom’s birthday today. As expected, she won’t give a straight answer to inquiries concerning her age. Anyway, in lieu of being able to find Mazembe @45rpm, which was given B Plus by Christgau and A Minus by Tatum, I rolled back and did a quick write-up of OSM’s ’02 comp, which I discovered a while ago but didn’t fully absorb until this year. As such, it’ll appear on the year end list. Consequently, I feel I have an inordinate amount of albums from previous years filling slots on 2013’s future listing. Actually I have a number of albums in the queue riding the A-line; as to when I’ll feel comfortable enough to write about them, it’s hard to say.
ORCHESTRA SUPER MAZEMBE – Giants of East Africa (Earthworks ’01): Retrospective of hit songs from Kenya-based collective, most of whose original members are deceased, a solid comp often overlooked and more easily accessed (audibly, regionally, monetarily) than Sterns’ new Mazembe @45rpm, which I encountered only once but know had questionable sound quality. Founded in Zaire and later located in Nairobi, neither leader Lovy Longomba’s vocals nor Bukalos’s guitar are stellar attractions—Longomba is no Tabu Ley; Bukalos no Franco—but collectives of this size are meant to swallow weaknesses with the power of numbers, so with multiple voices on backup and several guitars riding the melody, it turns into a seventy-plus minute soukous dance party. A MINUS
ROKIA TRAORÉ – Beautiful Africa (Out Here/Nonesuch): Released in Europe but currently unavailable from Stateside distributor Nonesuch, you needn’t a lyric sheet to understand the just-pushing-40 Malian singer’s largely Bambara-and-French message; her hushed, husky delivery sternly commands a pulsing trap drum-led groove (“Lalla”), floats freely on a down-tempo n’goni shuffle (“Ka Moun Ké”), weaves around Tuareg-bent guitar licks and trilled-out mantra of “Sikey,” pointing to the personal and to Mali’s war-torn streets. Or if the slick basslines and foot-stomping rhythms don’t speak to you, just wait for her lines in English: “Battered, wounded Africa / Why do you keep the role of the beautiful naïve deceived / Yet my faith does not know failure / I love you beautiful Africa.” Producer John Parish (PJ Harvey) deserves props—and don’t forget n’goni master Mamah Diabate and Polar Bear percussionist Sebastian Rochford—but lest you think he crafted a rock record from the Malian mind, remember Traoré’s testimony: “I didn’t want to make rock and roll in the Western tradition… I wanted something that’s rock and roll but still Malian and still me.” A