Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Les Amazones d'Afrique

  • République Amazone [RealWorld, 2017] A-
  • Amazones Power [RealWorld, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

République Amazone [RealWorld, 2017]
Conceived by the great singers Oumou Sangaré, Mariam Doumbia, and Mamani Keita, then joined by the dynamite organizer Angelique Kidjo after Sangaré withdrew, this loose feminist alliance out of Francophone West Africa feels more like a movement than any other stab at musical do-gooding you can name. I don't understand the lyrics, including the scattered English ones said to be in here somewhere. But the thorough notes articulate the ideology they share, which calls out sexist violence while asking men to back them up where it could just tell them to go fuck themselves. The particulars of the vocal attack differ, as voices will. But empowered by a rock-informed groove overseen by French-Irish Mbongwana Star producer Liam Farrell, the music is unbowed and declarative as it subordinates squarely rousing Euro-America to polyrhthmically engaged Africa--an Africa represented by Panzi Hospital in southern Congo, where 200 of the 350 beds go to rape survivors. A-

Amazones Power [RealWorld, 2020]
Unimpressed at first by music lacking both the exuberant Afrogroove woman power of Les Amazones de Guinée and the ideological feminism of this project's debut, I came around when I learned to hear it as Liam Farrell's boldest Afro-Euro fusion yet. Absolutely it's feminist rather than simply woman-powered, as the incisive and abundant notes make manifest--the daring and together Mamani Keita is all over it without dominating her many female coworkers. But from the squeaky-door sound that sneaks under the together-we-must-stand opener to the squelchy keyb intro to a title closer that passes lead vocals from queen to queen, Mbongwana Star mastermind Farrell marks this music with 21st-century sounds, some but by no means all borrowed from or inspired by the bassy Congotronics effects he puts to such daring and various use. By no means ignore the CD's generous documentation. But by all means try to hear it as music merely. A-