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Osibisa - Osibisa CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.75 | 79 ratings

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3 stars As someone who passed through a significant world music phase and still enjoys ethnic fusion, I was long overdue to check out the primordial blend offered up by OSIBISA before the genre even had a name. Hailing from 1971, their debut not surprisingly incorporates the progressive music of its day into an appealing mix of R&B, African, and Latin sounds. SANTANA certainly provides a solid point of reference but OSIBISA is more ensemble oriented and casts a wider net.

The intention from the get go was to produce joyous music that gets you or at least your chromosomes dancing, and the objective seems to have been met. While the group sound is clearly much happier than its analog in America, its general heaviness and incessant emphasis on rhythm do not produce the same effect on this listener, especially when compared to the more melodically oriented practitioners of the 80s and beyond - JULUKA, TOURE KUNDA, and HABIB KOITE to name a few. In the meantime, drum solos are the aural equivalent of traffic snarls for me in 2011, so, while I can appreciate that times were different, it doesn't mean I want to go back to something I never experienced in its proper context in the first place.

Still and all, OSIBISA offers enough striking material assessed on its own merits, as well as blueprints for the world music artists who followed, to merit their groundbreaking status. The best examples here of each respective aspect would be "Music for Gong Gong" and "Ayiko Bia". One of the group's strong suits is their expressive use of wind instruments, mostly brass, and "Oranges" provides the juiciest example herein. I am intrigued by the lyrical concept of "Phallus C", but the words are hard to make out and nowhere could I find them online. It almost sounds like an indictment of stereotypes around penis length and girth based on race, but musically leaves me cold. "Thing about the people" would seem out of place in lesser hands but actually works well as a closing number, solidifying the group's versatility in the realm of political protest. Lyrics aside, this one is worth it for the organ work even relative to the keyboard standards set earlier in the disk.

I don't imagine I will be crisscrossing these rhythms with high frequency, but I can certainly understand the buzz and the role this band could play as a portal to the world music scene for progressive aficionados.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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