Review of the year: World Music
Kinshasa on the beat
Friday 30 December 2005
This outfit from the battered city of Kinshasa turned all the usual ideas of Congolese dance music upside down. No virtuoso guitar solos, slinky rhythms or slick harmony vocals, but a quite extraordinary, furious, complex musical onslaught. The music is based on the likembe, the traditional "thumb piano", distorted through a makeshift sound system, with furious drumming and vocals, echoes of dub and rap and bursts of improvisation. The album of the year. The disappointment of the year was the mysterious decision not to allow them visas to play here.
From elsewhere in Africa, the best new releases came from veterans, from the ever-intriguing Mali, where the blind husband-and-wife team of Amadou and Mariam at last got their break. They've sung together since the Seventies, but enjoyed only modest success with their R&B fusion albums until Manu Chao offered to produce, co-write and perform on Dimanche a Bamako (Because), which broke into the Top 20 pop charts in France and brought them a new audience. This was a great African cross-over pop record, and Amadou and Mariam's live shows proved they could do it without Chao's help.
A good year, too, for established Malians. Ali Farka Touré, the greatest exponent of African desert blues, took time off from his duties as Mayor of Niafunké to collaborate with Africa's finest kora player, Toumani Diabate. In the Heart of the Moon (World Circuit) was an instant classic, recorded in just three days, with Touré's stately, bluesy guitar lines matched with the effortless, rapid flurries from Diabate. The kora star also made an appearance on Salif Keita's M'Bemba (Universal Jazz) in which the great singer marked his return to Mali with a glorious set.
In the Latin scene, the year saw the death of the great Ibrahim Ferrer. New styles came from Mexico's Los de Abajo, with LDA v The Lunatics (Real World), in which salsa, reggae and Mexican styles mixed with ska. Even more quirky was Pink Martini's Hang On Little Tomato (Wrasse) in which retro-chic easy listening was matched with European balladry, ragtime and songs in six languages. And all this from an American band hailing from Portland, Oregon.
The Five Best
Konono No 1: Congotronics
Amadou and Mariam: Dimanche a Bamako
Touré/Diabate: In the Heart of the Moon
Los de Abajo: LDA v The Lunatics Pink Martini: Hang On Little Tomato
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Monty Python-inspired Australian Sam Simmons wins comedy award with 'very silly' show
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge?'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up