The stark Saharan blues masterpiece Talking Timbuktoo by Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder having already been nominated on these pages, we go to the opposite end of the musical spectrum, the ringing guitars, skipping snares and sweet harmonies of the Congo basin, for the first African choice. It could have been Zairean - Papa Wemba's Foridoles or Madilu System's Sans commentaire - but in fact it's Angolan, the veteran 400 metre sprinter, Benfica forward, political activist and African musical avant gardistBonga's compilation album Katendu (Celluloid). For the simplicity and soul of the voice, the deceptive catchiness of the sembas and kimbundu rhythms, the small-town disco authenticity.
Burnin' urn of churnin' funk of 1994 was Mambo el Soudani (Piranha) by a group of Nubian musicians known as Salamat. "A beautiful flower in the garden of musical styles," remark the sleeve notes.
It's tempting to nominate the late Algerian rai star Cheb Hasni's last self-titled cassette as a gesture of support to Algerian musicians, of whom Hasni was the first to be murdered by Islamic Fundamentalists. More accessible, however, is the soundtrack album to the film Bab El Oued City by Rachid Bahri (Auvidis) with its mix of rai, chaabi and Arab rumba.
The Cuban-born band leader Israel "Cachao" Lopez has as good a claim as anybody to have exported the rumba from its Havana birthplace and to have invented the mambo during his 60-year career. Cachao's Master Sessions Volume 1, the first release on EmilioEstefan's promising new Crescent Moon label, was an assemblage of top-flight Latin players.
The modern master of Latin dance, the Dominican Republic's Juan- Luis Guerra and his group 4:40 came up with yet another strong album "Fogarate" (Karen/ BMG). Guerra continued his skilful incorporation of guest elements: Zaireans guitarist Diblo Dibala and composer Papa Wemba and his own country's tasty accordionist Francisco Ulloa, whose rough, galloping merengues, are best but don't overshadow Guerra's own contributions. …