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AfroCubism: Giants At Play, United By Music

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AfroCubism: Giants At Play, United By Music

AfroCubism: Giants At Play, United By Music

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In 1996, British producer Nick Gold tried to convene top musicians from Cuba and West Africa, but his musical summit idea fell apart when the Africans couldn't get to Havana. So Gold's team scrambled and instead came up with the hugely popular Buena Vista Social Club. Now, Gold has returned to his initial idea, and the result is the new album AfroCubism.

Banning Eyre has our review.

(Soundbite of music)

BANNING EYRE: Deep history underlies the musical interplay on AfroCubism. For starters, Cuban music is fundamentally rooted in African traditions. Moreover, in the early '60s, French West African countries like Mali and Guinea tended to the Soviet side of Cold War politics. Their governments sent local musicians to Havana for training, and they came home and taught their countrymen to sound like this.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KASSE MADY DIABATE (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: That's Kasse Mady Diabate, a golden-throated griot, a praised musician from Mali. Though raised in African tradition, Kasse Mady sang in one of Mali's top Afro-Latin bands during the '70s. You might say his whole life has led up to the AfroCubism project. That's also true for guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, another griot, and a guy who learned guitar in part by accompanying Cuban hits on the radio.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: Tounkara is one of four virtuoso instrumentalists in AfroCubism's Malian contingent. Heading up the Cuban faction is Eliades Ochoa, who sings and plays the guitar-like tres. Ochoa sang the signature Buena Vista Social Club hit "Chan Chan," and he provides similarly folksy songs for AfroCubism.

(Soundbite of song, "Chan Chan")

Mr. ELIADES OCHOA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Though most of these musicians are Africans, the grooves tend more to the Cuban side. Even when the African dimension comes to the fore, you still feel the propulsive force of that distinctly Cuban bass.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: By tradition, both Malian and Cuban music rely on highly disciplined distribution of musical roles, but they also leave lots of room for improvisation. So within these joyful jams, form and structure give way to freewheeling exchanges.

And consider this: Five of the key musicians here are used to calling the shots as leaders of their own bands. AfroCubism is a summit of giants at play - their egos in check, their hearts open and the tangled history of two worlds flowing through their veins.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: The CD is called AfroCubism. Reviewer Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org.

(Soundbite of music)

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

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