Various Artists
Love’s A Real Thing: World Psychedelic Classics 3

Luaka Bop

s Jason Gross recently pointed out, world music as a rarefied term doesn’t mean very much. More than anything else, it’s a convenient device to segregate Anglophonic rock ‘n’ roll from its diasporas and vice versa. As Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio said at a Philadelphia concert two years ago, “you can’t own culture,” in reference to the appropriation of so-called “black” musics and folk expressions by the suburban white youth in the audience—a tongue-in-cheek indictment of what’s viewed as acceptable cultural miscegenation—the practice of replacing Little Richard’s brash sexuality with a tranquil, if not tranquilized, Pat Boone. One byproduct of these transmissions has been the marketing parlance that so often dominates music writing, and world music tends to fall into that category, a word that signifies the safe suburban liberalism and the blank discourse of respectable fin-de-siecle identity politics—the sort of thing that recognizes but doesn’t understand a mute, immutable Other—markets borne of guilt rather than interest, resulting in a tokenism that replicates and festishizes the marginalization it pretends to subvert.

Love’s A Real Thing reflects the global psychedelic movement in its African incarnation, which incorporates indigenous percussion with mesmerizing horn charts and entrancing, repetitive guitar melodies, conjuring John Coltrane’s expansive, otherworldly spirituality and capturing the postcolonial Zeitgeist. A far cry from Fela Kuti’s didactic insistence on creating “authentic” African music with strict adherence to tradition infused with modern politics, Love’s A Real Thing shows how Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth responded musically to the political and social upheavals of the period: a combination of irrepressible joy and righteous indignation.

The title track, performed by Super Eagles, builds gradually into a crescendo that culminates in an expression of secular eschatology: the strident reassurance that love is a real thing. The following song, Moussa Dombia’s “Keleya” gravitates toward Krautfunk, segueing into the dizzying, labrynthine “Ceddo End Title.” The salsa inflection of “Guajira Ven” captures the compilation’s stylistic breadth, testifying to the cultural confluence represented here. “Allah Wakbarr”, by Ofo The Black Company, features Hendrix freakout guitars and tribal chants, combining Psychedelic Soul-era Temptations with the MC5. The most direct political statement can be found in William Onyeabor’s “Better Change Your Mind,” which addresses how the UN Security Council member nations continue to divide Africa as if it were their birthright; Onyeabor getting across a message through screaming keybs and meandering guitar that remains pertinent today, especially when Bono considers himself Africa’s Great White Hope. Doesn’t he know that South Africans once returned their predatory Visa bills with the words non serviam scrawled across them, a message more direct and forthright than anything he’s been able to muster since galavanting across the continent one glossy photo shoot at a time?

Although completists might argue that Afrobeat psych merchants Blo merited inclusion, particularly because their recent retrospective has gone out of print, most would agree that Love’s A Real Thing more than adequately encompasses a broad cross-section of the subgenre, and offers a fine introduction to an overlooked chapter in African postcolonial rock.

Reviewed by: J T. Ramsay
Reviewed on: 2005-03-18
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