Mohammed Alidu & the Bizung Family Land of Fire

Mohammed Alidu & the Bizung Family Land of Fire
Getting past the horrible cover art may be a challenge, but Land of Fire is a very solid release from the Boulder, CO-based Ghanaian musician. Following in the traditions of the Bizung talking drummers and, indeed, most Afro-pop musicians, Alidu transposed his repertoire to European instruments. More traditional fare, such as "Nantoo" and "Only Love," is interesting, but it's the cross-cultural music that takes off. "Chaskalanga" combines Malagasy rhythms with Ghanaian ones for a dense, captivating groove. The not so unsung presence on this record is multi-instrumentalist Matt Wasowski, whose guitar work is a cut above so much Afro-fusion found outside of major cities in the U.S. and Europe; his arrangements are lively without being saccharine sweet. Perhaps the band's location in Boulder meant that the musicians weren't required to kowtow to an already existing Afro-pop audience to get gigs and could loosen up and do their own thing. They do just that and in the process, have crafted a strong debut. (Independent)