various artists,
An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey
(Putumayo, 2002)

I keep waiting for Putumayo to release a CD compilation I don't like. With An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey I am yet again disappointed. Or am I? Once again I find myself recommending a CD that has managed to not only make its way into my musical rotation, but to stay there!

What connects all the selections on this CD is that the four countries represented -- Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique -- were all Portuguese colonies at one point in their history. Despite their distance from each other, these places are collectively known as "Palop countries." According to the promotional material, Palop stands for "Paises Africanos de Lingua Oficial Portuguesa, or African Countries with Portuguese as the Official Language."

The 13 tracks found here meld elements of African, Portuguese and Brazilian music. The styles displayed include Angolan semba and kizomba, Mozambican marrabenta, gumbe from Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verdean morna and coladeira.

While all the tracks are worthy of mention in their own rights, one of the more memorable is the only track representing Mozambique. "Maldeyeni (In the Villages)" is about the simpler way of life in a small town verses the large city. The band, Mabulu, in interesting in that multiple generations are represented within the group.

Four artists/groups hail from Cape Verde. Having listened to Cesaria Evora for years, I find the style highly recognizable without looking at the song listings. The musicians showcased here are the Mendes Brothers, Agusto Cego, Leonel Almeida and Jovino Dos Santos.

The best song on An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey is, arguably, by Eneida Marta from Guinea-Bissau. On "Na Bu Mons (In Your Hands)," Eneida's sweet voice tells the story of a woman who has given everything to the man she loves, only to receive nothing in return. Rounding out Guinea-Bissau's musical repertoire are Manecas Costa, Bidinte, Dulce Neves and Ze' Manel. With five songs, this country (which I haven't heard much about) is the most represented.

Finally, Angola's musical styles are demonstrated by Paulo Flores, who has a solo track as well as guest vocals on a second track with Banda Maravilha. Ruy Mingas has an instrumental track, "Homenagem A 'Liceu' Vieira Dias (Homage to 'Liceu' Vieira Dias)" which consists of some very pretty guitar playing. In a way, it is almost jazzy. The strings are backed up by congas, a bamboo scraper and some light female vocalizations.

For those of you familiar with Putumayo, you will not be disappointed with An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey. For those of you who have yet to experience the genius behind some of the most expertly created compilation CDs of music from around the world, this CD would not be a bad place to start. While not the absolute best from their catalogue, this collection aptly demonstrates the care Putumayo puts into selecting the songs to release on each CD. Like I stated at the start of this review, I am still waiting to be disappointed by a Putumayo release.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 15 February 2003

Buy it from