Fire down below

Summer's here. It's hot. You're falling asleep. You need some music from the tropics. Get fresh with Philip Sweeney
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The Independent Culture
In tropical dance music, what goes around comes around. "Disco will pass on, just like charleston and rhumba," remarks the Zairean singer Sam Mangwana in his song "Affaire Disco", one of the highlights of his late 1970s album Waka, Waka. True, but they all come back eventually, including, thanks to London-based Stern's "African Classics" series, the delightful Waka Waka together with its sequel Maria Tebbo. Recorded in Paris when Mangwana, having built his reputation in the great Congolese rhumba bands of Franco and Rochereau was forging a solo career around the continent, Maria Tebbo with its lilting melodies, jaunty guitar and brass is redolent, as the compilation sleeve remarks, of a time when life was sweet, or at least sweeter, in Africa. "Dancing is good for the weekend", Mangwana admonishes disco-obsessed youth in "Affaire Disco", "but don't forget school and books".

For a decade now, the all-conquering Zairean guitar bands have proliferated, splitting, reforming, competing in the incessant invention of new dance crazes and catch phrases. "Moto! Moto!" bawls Paris's most in demand Zairean animator, Niawou 36.15 - the Lingala for cat and the French Minitel information code prefix - over the dance sections of the new release from veteran band Somo Somo (Hello Hello, Stern's label) referring to last year's most popular dance the Moto! Moto! (Fire Fire) as in "Kinshasa Moto!" (Kinshasa's on fire) and, stretching credibility to the limit, "Belgique Moto!" (Belgium's on Fire). Accompany these succulent records with litre bottles of cold Primus beer and don't be put off by spoilsports pointing out that the Moto! Moto! has already been superseded by the Tora Tora, since they're to all intents and purposes identical.

Till the early 1980s Haitian music was much influenced by visiting Zairean bands, but the resulting style, the wonderful "compas direct", has been replaced, due to its Duvalierist associations, by mizik rasin - routes music. A more frantic and less rhythmically seductive brew, this combines voodoo-associated drumming, rock electric guitars, political lyrics in Haitian Creole, and, crucially, powerful mixed male and female choruses. Boukan Ginen (the furnace of Africa roughly translated) often remind one of 1970s American bands like War or Santana, but the high point of their album Jou a Rive (Xenophile Records) is the superb a capella "Ede M Chante" (Help Me to Sing). Sip Barbancourt rum liberally while listening and rearrange your voodoo altar - dolls heads in bottles, coffee grounds, candles, money, nothing elaborate - to ensure no zombies other than your nearest and dearest drop by.

It's been a good year for Salsa, with smooth post-romantic productions by Roberto Roena, Victor Manuelle and Johnny Rivera coming out of Puerto Rico, and wild cards like Dominican-born New York-based street star Rauln Rosendo's wrecked but magnificent return on El sonero que el pueblo prefiere. Columbia as always is near the top, as London ex-patriots from Salsa capital Cali who swigged aguardiente and danced their socks off at Gurpo Niche's gig at the Hammersmith Palais last weekend will attest. Niche's new record Huellas del Pasado (Traces of the Past, Sony Records) marks a return to form, with catchy turns, tight over-dubbed brass arrangements and fine vocals.

Back in Africa, the tiny island state of Cabo Verde has had inordinate cultural influence in continental Europe, but not Britain, recently, due to the great recording success of Cesaria Evora, a middle-aged contrary and soul-crammed exponent of the morna, the sad atmospheric ballad peculiar to Cabo Verde. Evora's newest album Cesaria (BMG Records) quite equals its predecessor Miss Perfumado in plaintiff sultriness, especially in the faster coladera dance numbers, where the guitars, pianos, accordions, mandolin-like cavaquinhos and rustling percussion achieve a delicious quiet intensity. The drink here is grogue - home-made sugar cane spirit - which serves as a perfect prelude to a session of lascivious entwined coladeras and a long lie-in.

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