Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Monguito El Unico and Laba Sosseh

  • Salsa Africana--Monguito El Unico and Laba Sosseh in U.S.A. [Sacodisc, 2005] A-

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Salsa Africana--Monguito El Unico and Laba Sosseh in U.S.A. [Sacodisc, 2005]
So my salsa-playing brother-in-law listens for a while and chides me indulgently for once again preferring African clave to the real thing. Not so abashed I don't remain into what I'm into, I think I hear what he means--the groove here is simultaneously more emphatic and more contained than in the Eddie Palmieri he's always promoting and the charanga he pops in now. Only as it turns out, these five tracks, which I have as an unannotated burn, were cherry-picked from circa-1980 sessions in which nasal, Cuba-born Monguito El Unico united chesty, Gambia-born Laba Sosseh with NYC salsa hotshots. In Dakar, Sosseh was a giant, supremely danceable in an era when salsa was the chosen music of the newly independent elite. In U.S.A., he was an exotic. This bypasses Sosseh's signature "Aminata" and "La Bicycletta." But the synergy of the two contrasting voices--plus, assuming the inevitable Nuyorican rub-off, three slightly different conceptions of clave--makes for yet another seductive variation on the Senegambian tinge. Not easy to find, and I've now heard other music by both Sosseh and Monguito that seems worth exploring. But this will always be where I started. A-