Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Before Benga 2: The Nairobi Sound [Original, 1993]
We all know African music is meant to be apprehended rhythm foremost--except for the oddballs who think maybe it actually comes tunes first. Early electric pop from a high-set city too temperate for open-air dance halls, these lovingly collected Kenyan singles lilt and sway beguilingly, and the lyrics mix timeless courtship and dated topicality with an earnest smile I'm sure will charm Swahili speakers. But the collective genius is in the tunes. Play it a dozen times, then attend as each melody makes its modest entrance, and you'll swear you've been hearing every one for years. And I guess it's possible you have. But not in the same place. A