Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Zulu Jive/Umbaqanga [Earthworks, 1983]
There's an urban punch and pace here missing from most Afropop, although the singing and rhythms are less power-packed than we're told they can be, and only Aaron Mbambo, whose urgent high shout lifts his two cuts well out of the mix, is well-known in the style. Selected stanzas on the back refer painfully to curfews and pass laws as well as the money worries and familial perfidies of the companion compilation Viva Zimbabwe!, and they gain emotional thrust behind astringent harmonies from South Africa and instrumental colors from assorted ports of call: squeezebox, electric organ, heavy electric bass, oudlike fiddle, everything but horns. Which aren't missed. B+