Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Kings of African Music [Music Club, 1997]
Ali Farka Toure's folkloricism to Manu Dibango's dance jazz is a leap for anyone who can hear, and as a listener who has learned to distinguish instinctively among the vocal approaches of Zimbabwe, Congo, and Senegal (to overgeneralize shamefully, call them rough, sweet, and piercing), I object in principle to the pan-African conceit. But essentialism has its lessons, such as how overtly dramatic--ergo individualistic?--pop vocals have gotten continent-wide since the ebullient postcolonial communitarianism captured by John Storm Roberts's Africa Dances. And done as well as this, essentialism also has its uses--as a budget-priced introduction for theoretical Afrocentrists ready to confront musical reality, and a minor treasure trove for supposed experts like me. How can it be that I never heard Franco's "Tres Impoli" before? A-