Various African Pearls 4: Senegal — The Teranga Spirit

This is the most recent edition of the African Pearls series and given the vitality of Senegalese music from the time period covered by this whole series — the early ’60s to mid-’80s — it is the most exciting one. Like much of Western Africa, Senegal was very much in thrall of Cuban grooves, pumping out salsa with a harder edge than its Congolese cousin. From a revisionist North American standpoint, one has to be impressed by the willingness to get psych pretty much everywhere — effects pedals and analogue synths dominate several tracks. The slow jam of "Laagia” by Ngewel International has a tremendous flanged guitar that adds an edge to the bluesy dirge. This is bettered in the very next track, the nine-minute fuzz guitar and organ epic "Saraba” by Ifang bondi. The most famous Senegalese band of this era, Orchestra Baobab, is represented twice, and confirm their rep as both the hardest swinging and most intense band of the era. One of the great aspects of the African Pearls series is that it forces a new listener to take in this music on its own terms — these were quintessential Senegalese hits full of experimentation but utterly unlike the kind of funky comps that have so dominated the reissue market in recent years. It’s slow jam after slow jam without dance floor-friendly production but it’s a rich sonic stew of multiple musical influences. The one track that would provoke dancing heat would be the Rhodes’n’ride cymbal spiked closer "Ade” by Xalam. They were a jazzy, percussion-heavy next generation band of the late ’70s and along with Youssou N’dour’s Etoile De Dakar, pointed the way to a faster and more polyrhythmic direction for the country in the next decade. (Syllart)