I've mentioned before that what really started me into African musics was Ginger Baker's old underlauded Air Force ensemble (post-Cream, post-Blind Faith) and Osibisa. Groups like King Crimson and many progrock ensembles had been shaping towards jazz, which I was at the time slowly taking to, but Air Force and Osibisa best embodied a sound I found highly irresistable and thus speeded the process. The Alma Afrobeat Ensemble very much reminds me of that vibe and era, a horns-dominated combo with two percussionists (Gustavo Sassone, Didier Roch) who sound like four and a singer in group leader Babacar Gaye whose every line is imbued with friendly electricity, warm and inviting while a bit on the wild side, a spirit who will not be contained, and carrying a mission to get the people off their keisters.
This is complex and sophisticated jazz with tons of interlocking lines, cool-ass energetic backing vocals. I don't know if the 'Blah, blah, blah' chorus in Topo is indicative of an African word or nuance or purposefully wrought English slang, but it's amusing as hell and puts a big smile on my face…but it's also dance music. The beat and levels of groove are irresistible, so much so that I found myself seat dancing in my Lazy Boy as I listened and typed…quickly catching myself, glancng swftly about, to see if anyone had monitored my abandonment of the grave austere modus we doomladen critics must maintain at all costs in order to have our licenses renewed yearly. Seatdancing indeed! Luckily, no one else was in the house, so I resumed my wanton behavior. Don't tell anyone.
QSQ has a great give-n-take between chorus and Gaye (as well as an uncredited woman soloing…unless Gaye somehow went counter-tenor on us)—actually, about half the songs do but this one's particularly noticeable, and Stef Farmo tosses in a zesty John Poppery harmonica solo a cut later in Bursine. There's no such thing as a ballad here, y'all, so expect to get on yer dancin' shoes or be-bop around the parlor and fireplace. Beer and wine will be expected, to maketh light the hearts of all involved, and pack in as many bodies as you can when you premier the disc at home. This is music for the masses from a band already adjudged as the best representative of Afrobeat music in Spain, offering a hell of a lot for those enamored of Afro-Cubano, Braziliana, and, for my money, ranchero musics as well. Or, like me, you can just fade back into the first days of rock-jazz's fusion era and make like you're 17 once again…although, with the thinning hair, lower back going out, and a pile of bills taller than you are, that may take a little doing.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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