Africando ‘Viva Africando’ (Sterns) 4/5

The Afro-Cuban meets West African music collective return with an strong album that has a slight difference this time round. Due to visa difficulties with Malian arranger and musical director Boncana Maiga, the latest recording has taken place in Paris with extra vocals added from various destinations. Among a bevy of dance-floor ditties, it is the more traditional orient numbers that nonetheless stand out. The mid-tempo guajira-style ‘Xalazss Xalass is a real burner of a track that could just as easily have been an early 1970s Fania production while on opener ‘Deni Sabiali’ there are hints of ‘El Manicero’ given a modern update. Quite possibly the jewel in the crown is the uptempo ‘Destino’ and, overall, the punch brass and crisp percussion lends the group an irresistible groove that is hard to put down. On another dance-floor stormer, ‘Doundari’, the unnamed lead vocalist comes across as a Salif Keita acolyte. For some welcome variation to the relentless dance-floor action, the old-school charanga of ‘Noche con Santana’ with Latin-rock influences which features the flute of Orchestra Broadway musician Eddy Zervigon is a lovely diversion while there is an intoxicating tribute to the late Gnonnas Pedro on the appropriate titled ‘Es para ti Gnonnas’. The final number ‘Africa es’ is performed by the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and with veteran singer Ray de la Paz on top form most certainly works. In essence, salsa of the highest order. Tim Stenhouse

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