Buy These Records

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 31, 2005

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Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim
Riverboat/World Music Network

It's hard to separate Emmanuel Jal's back-story from his music. As a small child he was abducted by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army and turned into a child soldier, fighting major battles with advanced weaponry by the time he was 9. He trekked across Sudan with hundreds of people who died of thirst and starvation, and who turned to cannibalism to survive. He was adopted by a British woman who smuggled him out of Sudan into Kenya, where she died in a car accident. He went to London for school, then lost his visa and was forced to return to Africa. Despite his troubles, Jal released an album that garnered a No. 1 hit in Kenya, and became a rap superstar. Next month sees the release of Ceasefire, a historic collaboration with Northern Sudan's legendary singer/oud player Abdel Gadir Salim. Much like King Sunny Ade's tour with Prince Obi Osadebe, which brought two men from warring factions together through music, this album pairs the Christian Jal with the Muslim Gadir Salim, both of whom have hope for Sudanese peace. Though the international press calls Jal's music hip-hop, the collaborative Ceasefire is a mix of styles. There are songs dominated by choruses of women singing in harmony, and others-particularly the oud-heavy "Ya Salam," written by Gadir Salim-tinged with Casbah sensibilities. Jal raps in English, Swahili, Arabic and his native Nuer language, so most of the time we can only guess at the meaning of his lyrics. But the backing tracks feature a thumping, club-ready blend of thumb piano, African drums and electric guitar. If you mix Kanye West and OutKast with African and Arabic rhythms, Ceasefire is sort of what you end up with. A

Bantu Feat. Ayuba
Fuji Satisfaction: Soundclash in Lagos
Piranha Musik

Speaking of African collaborations, this Piranha Musik upcoming release celebrates the Fuji music of Nigeria-a blend of hip-hop, reggae and Afrobeat. The group Bantu is led by Ad�, who was born in England to a Nigerian father and a German mother. Here he teams up with Lagos' king of Fuji, Adewale Ayuba, for a release that's much more accessible than Ceasefire-less hip-hop and more DJ-friendly Afrobeat. Bantu and Ayuba do their best to make their music comprehensible, even including explanatory notes like this one for the song "How Real (Can a Real, Real Be)": "Hip-hop culture has reached a turning point, it has lost its values and OD'd on its own supply of negativity. Where do we go from here?" There's plenty of English on this album, including the humorous intro skit, and some of the songs sound undeniably familiar-like a mashup of Baaba Maal with "Macarena." It's catchy, fun music, and the CD features an amusing bonus video, but it's not nearly as raw as Ceasefire. It's happy music, made for dancing and celebrating this effervescent musical genre. Maybe that's what makes it a little less interesting. B+

Slo-Mo Featuring Mic Wrecka
My Buzz Comes Back

Local music fans are doubtless familiar with Slo-Mo, aka Mike Brenner, a Philly-based steel guitarist who's been a touring and session musician with Marah, Songs:Ohia, Badly Drawn Boy, One Star Hotel, Denison Witmer, Magnolia Electric Co., Steve Albini and loads more. He also led the Low Road, a very popular Philly band that can still be found on many a bar jukebox. Now he comes out with what's frankly his weirdest collaboration yet. Nothing about Brenner's musical past really suggested an interest in hip-hop, yet here he joins West Philly's Mic Wrecka, a rapper with a natural, easy flow that seamlessly blends with the rock and Latin rhythms Brenner's cooked up. (Wrecka's appeared on some recent Philly "Homemade Hip-Hop" discs.) Standouts include "Say You Are," which features an angry Latina haranguing someone on the phone alongside Wrecka's rhymes like
"S-L-O M-O and that's real/ Mad skills on the lap steel," and the Northern Liberties paean "Shackamaxon," featuring a gospel-style female chorus and directions-"Right on Girard/ Turn left hard"-just in case you're from out of town. The rock en espa�ol-style "Cuidado" showcases Brenner and Wrecka's quirky lyrical sensibilities, and "Below the City" brings synthesizer and harmonica (played by Marah's Serge Bielanko) together for a droney meditation. With the producing expertise of Edan Cohen, and musicians Nancy Falkow, Steve Demarest, Mark Schreiber, Hoagy Wing and Matt Cappy in the band, this winningly unpredictable album proves Brenner's far from finished reinventing himself. A-


Soul II Soul
Keep on Movin'
I know I'm going to date myself by saying this, but this 1989 blend of soul and hip-hop was my constant companion in my final year of college, the cassette lovingly inserted into my clunky Walkman for each snowy morning's walk to class. Like the releases above, it represents a collaborative effort (spearheaded by London's Jazzie B) that incorporates hip-hop, clubby anthems and African beats for surprising results. Though some of it sounds uncomfortably late-'80s to me now, I still appreciate Caron Wheeler's saucy attitude and powerhouse vocals, and the group's ability to open themselves to international influences. "African Dance," an instrumental, is especially similar to Bantu and Ayuba's music. After Keep on Movin', nothing this group did held any interest for me, but then again, neither did Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, which I was also into senior year. (L.S.)

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