Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Ouaga Affair: Hard Won Sound of the Upper Volta 1974-78 [Savannaphone, 2009]
Upper Volta became Burkina Faso in 1984, when Thomas Sankara reformed the corrupt government of this landlocked, not quite sub-Saharan backwater and simultaneously undermined a fan base consisting, as so often in Africa, of bureaucrats and businessmen with other people's money to burn. Not that the infrastructure amounted to much--a few venues and fewer labels, the largest of which supplied these 15 tracks. Recording quality varies from primitive to clear, but the music is remarkable for an impoverished nation of six million, no matter the input of educated immigrants from Europe and Francophone Africa. Singer and trade unionist Sandwidi Pierre contributes three indictments of urban decadence that include the instantly captivating lead cut. Manding guitarist Mangue Konde raises up a Latin-styled track before moving to Abidjan to join Super Mande. Harmonie Voltaique debate whether to save your mother or your wife from a raging river and make you feel their pain. Sahara and sub-Sahara mix and mingle. B+