In Search of the Lost Riddim


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According to Senegalese star Baaba Maal, reggae's heartbeat rhythm descended from the Yela songs sung by his countrywomen as they pound grain by hand. It could well be the rhythm of record on this roots rendezvous, which Jamaican guitar virtuoso Ernest Ranglin recorded with Maal and other notable Senegalese musicians during a visit to Dakar. A jazz-picking pro since 1948, Ranglin's career spans ska (which he at least partially invented,) rock steady and Bob Marley's band.

Unlike the jazzed-up reggae of Ranglin's marvelous 1996 album, Below the Bassline, or the equally jazzy memento Ranglin rediscovered on last year's Memories of Barber Mack, most of Lost Riddim is devoted to extended tribal grooves over which Ranglin flits and flows with inventive grace. St. Thomas drummer Dion Parson adds a Caribbean lilt to a large, melodic percussion section, while Ranglin successfully enmeshes himself in glittering tapestries woven by a 21-stringed kora, the three-stringed hoddu lute and the xylophonic balafon, with Maal and longtime accompanist Mansour Seck joining in on acoustic guitars. What could have been an intercontinental train wreck shapes up as a mellow intercultural homecoming. Palm Pictures 2001.FromEscape(Nov., 1999.) Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box 462255, Escondido, CA 92046.
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