popular african music

A. Fabricio Albuquerque of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on number III de nr.I


Back in early 2002 I was invited to a friend's birthday, a Senegalese living in Belo Horizonte. Another friend of mine, a Franco-Brazilian unaware of history or more serious matters such as football, showed himself up wearing France's jersey. Yes, believe it or not, he was unaware of upcoming world cup's opening match, even though it was explicitly mentioned in the invitation card! Issues were peacefully settled, and we had a great time: we Brazilians are known for being a bit naive, and my friend was forgiven by the Senegalese and Angolans present.

A couple of years later, long after celebrating Diop's and Ronaldo's goals, my Senegalese friend, another Brazilian and I decided to share a flat. I had plenty of time to satisfy my curiosity on Wolof, polygamy and ramadan, but for some reason I failed to ask him about life's cornerstone. Music, that is!

Now I realize that we Brazilians are a weird lot, as insular as a continental territory condemns us to be, and as influenced by Western mainstream as a developing country is. Plainly, how could I have missed this for so long?

Number 1 de Dakar sounds somehow disturbing. It plays a trick on you: over a strangely familiar quasi-Cuban groove, vocals are tinged with Arabic influences, and every now and then there is a sudden blast of talking drums. And the guitar...

I strongly advise anyone with the slightest interest in guitar playing to listen to this album, it is absolutely awesome! Yahya's guitar is raucous, smooth, dirty, fuzzy, wah-wah-zy, jazzy, rocky, all at the same time and as good as guitar playing goes! I just love it, at times the songs feel like Jimi Hendrix jamming with Lucho Bermudez...

And last, but not least, there is the brass section: horns just appear and vanish as they wish, like in an old fashioned carnival parade. Like in my perfect carnival afternoon, parading along with a "bloco" in Tiradentes (Brazil), back in 1996. Or when, next door, my late and dear neighbor Senhor Ubaldo would play his trumpet after hours: at times slightly out of tune, never out of target.

Altogether there is a feeling of freedom, with horns floating, the guitar seamlessly switching from mellow to raucous, and the overall sonority alternating between Afro and Latin siamese twins. Relaxing yet a bit disturbing, as in a fine work of art.

Viva Number One!