Liner Note Author: Etienne Tron.
Recording information: Digidream Studios.
London-based DJ/production duo Radioclit, best known for their work with Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya as the Very Best, compiled this top-notch collection of street-level African dance anthems, all of which have become favorites in their DJ sets worldwide and specifically at their monthly Secousse parties in London and Paris. (Though note that the selections here are presented in complete, unmixed form.) The word "secousse"is French for "shake," aptly enough, and it's also the source of the term soukous, the Congolese dance music that's just one of the myriad musical styles surveyed here. Pulling together tracks with roots all over sub-Saharan Africa, the compilation offers glimpses of contemporary urban club sounds and scenes from across the continent --most notably Angolan kuduru, Côte d'Ivoirian coupé decalé, South African shangaan disco/electro, and Cabo Verdean funaná -- but despite a well-informed curatorial approach there's clearly no emphasis on cultural anthropology or painstaking genre delineation: to the contrary, it's all about cross-pollination and infectious, spirited engagement. Reflecting the restlessly recombinant spirit of global post-colonial "ghetto pop" culture, this music is a colorful tangle of cheap-sounding electronic beats, tinny synths, warmly fluid guitars, polychromatic tropical percussion, and all manner of fiery, fluttery, sung, shouted, and semi-spoken vocals, borrowing from hip-hop, Caribbean music, house, and techno as well as any number of more traditional African cultural forms. The whole affair is frantic, immediate, joyous, and, of course, relentlessly danceable, right from the drop of Bab Lee's urgent, pounding instrumental banger "Sous les Cocotiers," but there's a rough progression from more overtly musical, comparatively relaxed fare to increasingly frenzied, preposterously high-bpm selections, peaking with the chintzy organs and manic, soca-inflected pace of Naty Kid's "Sereia" and Tshetsha Boys' "Mosemana Wa Dikgomo," two cuts whose merciless intensity is liable to induce fatigue among home listeners (not to mention dancers), but which nevertheless fit right into the energetic flow. A few more particular highlights include Magic System's cheerful "Petit Pompier," a mildly blippy Afro-pop charmer with irresistible chanted harmony vocals, Jusa Dementor's gleefully demented "African Airhorn Dance," which introduces vuvuzelas to Auto-Tune over a thumping UK Funky beat, and Kaysha's anthemic, "Axel F"-paraphrasing "On Est Ensemble." Tremendous fun throughout, and highly recommended. ~ K. Ross Hoffman