various artists,
World Reggae
(Putumayo, 2004)

The Putumayo label was inspired to create this world reggae album, which is sure to have wide appeal. The excellent introduction suggests that, "if music is the universal language, then reggae is its most widely spoken dialect." It is difficult not to agree after listening to this album.

The 12 bands and singers featured range from across the world, including France, India, the UK, Algeria, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Brazil, Spain, French Guiana, Ivory Coast, New Caledonia and Cameroon. Such a cultural mix is exhilarating and, at times, surprising too. It was certainly unexpected to hear some Celtic echoes in Mas y Mas's "Agua." This English-based trio features bandleader Rikki Thomas-Martinez who, as his name suggests, is of dual Welsh and Spanish descent. The influence of this cultural background becomes even more interesting when combined with reggae.

There are several highlight tracks deserving special mention. Apache Indian's "Om Numah Shivaya" blends the Asian ambience of Hindu chants and Indian flute with a strong reggae beat. Chris Combette's "Babylone Buildings" includes a sitar, making this another track with a distinctly Indian flavor. However, the number which perhaps makes the biggest impact is Maria de Barros's "Riberonzinha" from Cape Verde. It is very refreshing to hear a female voice in reggae, in this case fusing elements of West African and Portuguese music. Another distinctive female West African voice is Kaissa's "O Si Keka" from Cameroon. This song provides an outstanding extended concluding track that leaves the resonant reggae bass line ringing in your ears.

This is an inspiring and exciting album yet with an attractively chilled and laidback atmosphere. The liner notes are first-rate, with an informative introduction to each track that makes the listening all the more enjoyable.

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 1 January 2005

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