Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, Safarini in Transit: Music of African Immigrants

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A gloriously diverse selection of immigrants celebrating their homelands.

In the late 20th century, many Africans moved to the Pacific Northwest for economic reasons, bringing their music with them. So you get Congolese rumba from Wawali Bonane and Frank Ulwenya (the latter is Kenyan, but the rumba is still huge there) and Zimbabwean mbira music from Lora Chiora-Dye nestling next to Afrobeat from Ghana's legendary Obo Addy. The sounds might be transplanted, but they remain real and rooted, and not in the least diluted by distance. Ulwenya, for instance, might have come to the States to work for Boeing, but he still cuts a powerful figure leading a band. The music might be pan-African and gloriously diverse, but it's unified by geography, immigrants celebrating their homelands — which, these days, are only hours away. Incisive and frequently brilliant, this is a joy, and a reminder of how small the modern world is.