Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara [World Music Network, 2014]
Volume two--its sequel status unnoted as usual--showcases quite a few of the individual artists whose voices emerged from what seemed a realm of barely differentiated mystery on its magnificent 2005 predecessor, and sneaks in extra music by the extra-dry Niger cross-tribalists Etran Finatawa, who back two other Wodaabe aggregations with dreams of escaping the cattle trade. This is a positive. Except for Sahrawi diva Mariem Hassan, who deserves all the kudos she can get, and Nubian master Ali Hassan Kuban, who provides his usual shot in the arm, these artists are better served by a single song than a whole album anyway, and both Wodaabe entries provide needed weirdness. There's also a bonus disc perfect for anyone seeking a whole album by someone who can't sustain one, because Mamane Barka comes damn close on a five-stringed harp you've never heard of perfected by a fishing tribe you've never heard of either. Not Barka's tribe--in the Sahara, a high school diploma is a broadening thing. A-