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A celebration of Africana

Kwanzaa Music
Kwanzaa Music
By various artists

Rounder Records: 1994


This review first appeared in the November 29, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

This collection of African and African-derived music from around the world is marketed as a celebration of the still-young holiday of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is held between Christmas and New Year's Day, and celebrates the positive contributions of the African-American community.

While the music here isn't traditional winter holiday fare, it does represent an outstanding cross-section of African-influenced music.

The album opens joyously with an upbeat dance number "Back to the Island," by the Bahamian combo Baha Men. The song is half Caribbean junkanoo and half American funk. The music then moves through rap, James Brown, New Orleans Mardi Gras, zydeco, blues and a variety of African styles drawn from Mali, South African and Zaire.

The liner notes by compiler Eric Copage point out that this music is not intended to be listened to only during the winter holidays, but all year long – and more importantly, is intended to serve as a jumping-off point that will help the listener discover all the richness and diversity of African-derived musics from around the world.