Review - An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey

Artist: Various Artists

An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey
Label: Putumayo
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey

Attempting to bring together the musical heritage of four quite geographically separate African countries may seem a foolish endeavor. Cape Verde (an island off the northeast coast of Africa), Guinea-Bissau (on the northeast coast), Angola (southeast Africa) and Mozambique (southwest Africa) are removed from one another by a total of nearly 4,000 miles, but they have the shared historical oppression of Portugal to thank for their unifying contemporary art. As a result, the 13 tracks on this collection are less reflective of the indigenous music of specific locales than it is of the music that has arisen as a result of hundreds of years of cultural domination by the Portuguese. Sounding as Brazilian as they do African, most of the songs share a rhythmic melancholy easily ascribed to both harsh living conditions and a certain Latin melodrama. Yes, the tropical winds that buffet Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau lend a certain airy tone to songs by the Mendes Brothers and Zé Manel, and, yes, some of the songs eschew political longing for romantic pining. But where Brazilian music can breezily shift from self-aware sadness to out-of-control joy, much of the music here is decidedly downcast in feel.