Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya [World Music Network, 2004]
Kenya isn't just diverse tribally, the way all African nations are diverse. Among the larger ones, only Nigeria sustains such a pronounced Christian-Islamic split, with the Muslims holding sway over pan-African Swahili and the arriviste Christians aligning with the animists their grandparents once were and also with Congolese rumba speculators come east to rake in the shillings. Traversing generational boundaries as well, this is a travelogue. But Kenya is a populous place with a prosperous history whose music has made few international inroads, and compiler-annotator Doug Paterson has ears. So here's chiming benga never heard stateside, traditional Swahili taarab and upstart Swahili rumba, distinctly Muslim hooks, rappers worthy of the name, and--best of all, really--three modern female voices on the first six tracks. The country's a mess; Daniel arap Moi saw to that. But its spirit would appear to be strong. A-