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Calle 13

Chapitre 7

Mc Solaar
For his seventh album, Chapitre 7, French rap icon MC Solaar traveled to New York City and proceeded to record an adventurous album. Almost immediately on Chapitre 7, Solaar signals his desire to veer far from the French rap norm: a distorted electric guitar rips away during the opening seconds of the first song, "Carpe Diem"; the next song, "Paris-Samba," is a full-on samba workout "en français" with a steadily grooving backbeat; the next song, "Clic Clic," is a reggae exercise; and then comes "Da Vinci Claude," a maze-like song that kicks into rock gear after a half-minute. The remainder of the album is no less adventurous, though it's admittedly more in line with the style of sophisticated jazz-rap with which Solaar made his name during the 1990s. Producers Eric K-Roz and Alain J helm Chapitre 7 in tandem, and despite the freewheeling stylistic experiments that characterize the opening tracks, they give each song a similar feel that helps the album sound of a piece. Overall, Chapitre 7 is a showcase for Solaar and his production duo; only a few songs feature guest vocalists, namely Bambi Cruz ("Si on T'Demande"), Black Jack ("Sous les Palmiers"), and Issara ("Ben, Oui!"). Given Solaar's accomplished career to date, Chapitre 7 will likely be met with high expectations, especially by those acquainted with his earlier, much-celebrated work in the 1990s. Though not a classic album on a par with his past work, let alone a latter-day masterwork, Chapitre 7 is nonetheless an impressive accomplishment for Solaar. He sounds fearless here, eager to explore new styles and break free of expectations, even if the adventurousness and experimentation of Chapitre 7 might alienate those looking for a more traditional style of French rap from Solaar, or perhaps a return to the jazz-rap of his early work. At 18 tracks, each unique in its own way, Chapitre 7 is long, complex, and sometimes difficult. But it's rarely dull, at times curious, and overall a worthwhile investigation for anyone fond of Solaar or drawn to the fringes of French rap.

Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Eso Es Lo Que Hay

ChocQuibTown

Country, God Or The Girl

K'NAAN
Make no mistake: This is K'naan's stab at at the big time. His fourth album is cut with brain-grabbing hooks, pop-friendly beats and so much singing by the MC you almost forget he is an MC. Long-time fans may worry the Somali-Canadian rapper's fire has been watered down, but while Country is steeped in a mellow gold, it's also distinctively clever. Themes of love and loss are set to bouncy beats; lyrics name-check Betty White and Nancy Kerrigan; and bits of Afropop (the light marimbas of "Simple," the funky sax of "70 Excuses") infiltrate top-40 fodder. Then there's "Gold in Timbuktu," one of the strangest, sweetest hip-hop tracks ever. From the overlapping themes his album title introduces to his diverse guest stars (Nas! Bono!), K'naan is playing with what it means to be a pop star.

Rachel Devitt, Google Play

Himehajime

Hime

Sohret Yolu

Sultana

De Líder a Leyenda

Yandel

Afro-Latin Music

Viva Africando

Africando

Africa Boogaloo

Orchestre OK Jazz & Co

Homenaje A Los Santos Vol.2

Celia Cruz

CubAfrica

Cuarteto Patría
This CD opens with a veritable chestnut, the Mexican "Cielito Lindo," played by an African saxophonist and a Cuban son ensemble. The vocals are a bit hokey, yet it works. The idea to get together and record disparate material was born at a gig in France in 1996, and the studio was arranged "tout de suite". Dibango plays with restraint, sinuously weaving his warm tones in, under, around and over the by-now telepathically tuned-in-to-each-other players of Cuarteto Patria. On a few tracks, he mostly lays out; on others, his guitarist, Jerry Malekani, joins the proceedings, and the two of them bring in a more African feeling. A very enjoyable session, though not as essential or as ultimately satisfying as separate releases by the participants.

Janet Rosen, Rovi

Palenque Palenque: Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia 1975 - 91

Various Artists
Since the late 1980s, DJs and producers have been reputed to be fierce protectors of their vinyl collections in their same way that bluesman Skip James was reputed to play facing sideways or with his back to other guitarists so they couldn't steal his licks. That said, the modern DJ has nothing on those from the picos (sound systems) of the Caribbean coast of Columbia who hid their rare, prized finds of African recordings (and the musical cultures surrounding them) secret for up to 20 years.

The 21 tracks on this stellar Soundways edition showcase the almost unbelievable musical quality that the highly competitive competitive showcased. Palenque Palenque traces the development of champeta criolla in Colombia from its African origins to its full flowering in the grand pico era between the mid-'70s and 1991 in Carategna and Barranquilla, among mainly Colombian musicians on important native labels that were played by the pico DJs -- who often tossed the covers away to protect the knowledge that recordings were made on home soil. Champeta criolla music reveals the rhythm collisions of everything from highlife and Afro-beat to soukous and compas as they influenced local musicians who in turn created new sounds, covered tunes by African artists, and made something new in the process or, in some cases, even re-created African folk and slave songs in their own image -- some of which literally dated back to earlier centuries. While there isn't a dud in the bunch, some of the album's many highlights include the psychedelic cover of Fela Kuti's "Shakara" by Lisandro Meza y Su Conjunto, here entitled "Shacalao"; Abelardo Carbonaó y Su Conjunto's celebratory, highlife-inflected "Palenque" (ever an envelope-pushing musician, he became a member of Anibal Velasquez's amazing orchestra); Rabel y Su Grupo's "Mananye"; the rhythm orgy that is Son Palenque's "Dame un Ttrago," the Afro-beat-meets-roots reggae snakiness of "Dejala Corre" by Banda los Hijos de la Niña Luz, and Wganda Kenya's overdriven "Pim Pom," where Nigerian rhythms, chant, and cumbia wrestle the listener into submission. In addition to the music -- all of which has been painstakingly remastered from original tapes or vinyl sources and sounds terrific, the accompanying 28-page booklet contains a brilliant historical essay by DJ Champeta man original, Lucas Silva, who compiled Palenque Palenque: Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia 1975-91 with Soundways main man Miles Clerét. This is indispensable for any fan of African, Latin American, and especially, the music of the Caribbean coastline of Colombia.

Thom Jurek, Rovi

Susana Baca

Susana Baca
Susana Baca's eponymously titled debut captures the plangent beauty of her voice. The accompaniment is thankfully sparse, including only a guitar and cajón (a wooden box drum). The songs are unhurried and round corners melodically, twisting and turning, always showcasing her musicality. There's nothing on the album quite like "Maria Lando," and Baca's astonishing performance that led off the Soul of Black Peru compilation of Afro-Peruvian music, but a few tracks come close. The lead tune, "Negra Presentuosa," is the strongest, beginning with the cajón, which is soon joined by the guitar, then Baca, and finally a chorus at the close. Other standouts are "Heces," "Tu Miranda y Mi Voz," and "Caras Lindas." Andean pan pipes make their appearance on "La Luna Llena," while "Se Me Van los Pies" includes ill-considered echo effects, the album's only artistic lapse.

Spencer Harrington, Rovi

En El Solar La Cueva Del Humo

Pancho Quinto

Laba Sosseh

Laba Sosseh

Global Dub Beats Heard 'Round the World

Balkan Reggae (Jstar Mix)

Mahala Rai Banda

Caribbean Power

Bomba Estereo

Dub in a Time of Cholera

Dub Colossus

Kaise Guzar Rahi Hai

The Dub Factory

Bethe Bethe Kese Kese

Gaudi

Journey

Bombay Dub Orchestra

Leysh Nat’arak (2005 Dub Mix)

Natacha Atlas