October 28, 2010


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Afrocubism, Afrocubism
Nonesuch Records, Nov. 2

It’s been 14 years since the accidental birth of the world-music Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club, a Cuban folk/salsa project originally intended as a meeting of musical minds between the BVSC Cubans and a group of elites from the African country of Mali but which fell apart when the Malians’ travel plans unraveled. This coalition army of musicians, then, has had well over a decade to think about what they’d do as a unit, but in the main it’s what you might expect, African polyrhythms and instrumentation tightly woven into salsa and other Cuban sounds. Although the singing voices representing both cultures sound closely related, the inclusion of balafon (a xylophone-like West African instrument) is one thing that makes the stuff very different from BVSC. In one departure, “Karamo” comes off as new-age Mariachi, but everything here is undeniably unique, from the somber, mournful, sitar-like kora passages in “Al vaiven de mi carreta” to the balafon-swamped fractal guitar of “Djelimady Rumba,” all culminating in the relaxed and celebratory “Para los Pinaresse va Montoro.” The group performs Nov. 7 at Berklee Performance Center in Boston. A