My choices included a few reel-to-reel Peter, Paul and Mary and Beach Boys “albums” and a handful of ancient 8-tracks. The latter I would play by plugging my D.C. slot car transformer into an 8-track player salvaged from an old car.
Thirty years later, I’m still trying to make up for the lack of variety in my childhood music options. So when I was offered the chance to review Putumayo’s Kids African Dreamland, I jumped at the chance.
Then I hesitated, because I’ve had little time of late to follow up with reviews. Then I got the bright idea of taking advantage of my two-day driving extravaganza last week to Connecticut and back.
What struck me about the selections is how artists from countries such as South Africa, Congo, Cameroon, Guinea and Mali, blend so well together. I would have expected the differences in style – and nationality – to result in more jarring transitions between tracks.
The second thing I noticed is that my son, Seth, who prefers fast-tempo music over slow, likes African Dreamland. For example, Seth never really took to multicultural The Planet Sleeps because the music is too “boring,” according to Seth. Even though African Dreamland is essentially easy listening, Seth walked into my “living room” office to listen in. “What I like about it,” Seth says “is it’s a different language. I might want to learn the language some day.” I didn’t tell him the music is in several different languages.
Despite the range of musical choices on African Dreamland, I’m still most taken by the two A cappella pieces: Nomatehemba by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Agalilala by Samite. It never ceases to amaze me that the human voice can be as or more impressive than man-made instruments. Then again, the African harp is a beautiful instrument. Just listen to Salaman by Toumani Diabaté with Ballaké Sissoko.
Either way, it’s nice to listen to beautiful voices and instruments without the background hiss of an ancient 8-track player.