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The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project by Various Artists

There are many layers of activism to be heard on the collection of African music entitled ASAP: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project. The aid project referred to in the title of this CD is intended to benefit the Darfur region of Sudan. This album puts its money where its mouth is: 100% of the profits from this CD go to support causes that oppose this tragedy. The label that deserves credit for this selfless act is the fledgling Modiba; which was founded by two Wesleyan University graduates with the desire to produce and promote African music and film. Afrobeat itself is an activist music and the tracks on this album refer to the usual themes of pan-Africanism and anti-globalization. There's plenty to feel good about this album politically (depending on your views on the above subjects), and fortunately there's also a good deal of music to feel good about as well.

The artists featured on this album are a distinguished bunch and they've all contributed solid tracks to this charitable effort. There are several tracks of what qualifies as afrobeat according to the narrowest definition of that style: tracks from Kokolo, Antibalas, Ikwunga and Tony Allen, all feature the driving dance rhythms and James Brown-esque horn sections popularized by Fela Kuti. There is also some material that shows a broader range of influences beginning to pervade afrobeat: Keziah Jones demonstrates an appreciation for hip-hop and electronic music in his outstanding track "Garan Garan", and Dele Sosimi makes a fruitful combination of contemporary jazz and afrobeat, a sadly under-explored realm. The opening track is an obtuse remix overlaid with excerpts from speeches about the tragedy in Darfur. Musically, it's one of those tracks that you just have to get through to get to the real stuff, but politically it's the only track on the album that directly addresses the Sudan cause, so it's a forgivable offense.

Available on iTunes and at the label's store, this is a collection of African pop that would serve as a good introduction for those looking to diversify their collection, while also providing some excellent material for connoisseurs of the genre. And of course, it supports a (several) good cause(s).

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Various Artists
  • CD Title: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Modiba
  • Rating: Four Stars
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