Hi -- welcome to my African music review section. This page includes records by artists under the letter "L" More African music resources can be found at the main index page.
By the way, I'm hardly a world's expert on African music, and this list is kinda whatcha call a "work in progress," so please feel free to make suggestions and comments.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Raise Your Spirit Higher (Wenyukela)" (Heads Up Africa, 2004)
As rich and resonant an album as they've ever produced; a perfect introduction to the group, or a fine addition to the collections of devoted fans. Songs range from the Christian-themed title track, to the more secular concerns of "Fak' Ibhande," a public service song urging South Africans not to drink and drive. Sleek, lovely harmonies, with warm, drenching depths. It's Ladysmith in fine, full form.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo "No Boundaries" (Heads Up Africa, 2004)
It's funny how so many artists from so many genres -- aging dino-rockers, bloated Nashvillers, pretetious indie-niks -- will turn to classical music as a way to give their career a shot in the arm. Usually these "projects" (as they are loftily called) are flaccid and dispiriting, and thus I involuntarily winced when I saw the new Ladysmith disc... Sure, these guys are one of the world's premiere vocal ensembles and all, but still... Oh, god, I thought, this is going to be painful. The thing is, though... it's not! This is actually a fine record, with an engaging mix of African and clasical European motifs. The English Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Ralf Gothoni, adopt a playful, not-too-stuffy approach that lends a surprising bounce to the proceedings, and the Ladysmith members seem to be having fun as well. They reprise old favorites such as Paul Simon's "Homeless," one of their signature pieces, as well as songs from the European vocal canon, such as "Dona Nobis." The album loses some of its punch in the final few tracks, but for the first two-thirds of the disc, it's surprisingly strong and pleasantly engaging... Worth checking out, even if you were never a huge Ladysmith fan to begin with...
Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu" (Heads Up Africa, 2007)
(Produced by Joseph Shabalala)
Another gorgeous album of vocal tunes from South Africa's much-vaunted Ladysmith chorus. If anything, they're just getting better and better, as well as mellower and mellower. The English-language tunes don't do much more me (partly because the spiritual/religious message becomes so artless and lyrically flat), but when they sing in Zulu, it sure sounds magical... Lovely stuff; this group is still worth checking out, well into their fifth decade performing together.
Lafayette Afro Rock Band "Darkest Light: The Best Of" (Strut, 1999)
A widely-sampled funk band from the disco era, this group was also known as Ice, and though centered in Paris during the African pop boom of the 1970s, they actually hailed from the U.S. Nonetheless, their Kool And The Gang-meets-LA Express instrumental jams are often thought of in terms of the Afro-Beat that influenced them. Either way, their music is pretty darn enjoyable, and solidly performed throughout. The band flipped back and forth between its two different names; as far as I can tell these tracks are all Afro Rock Band recordings. Gets repetitive, but mostly it's pretty funky.
Lafayette Afro Rock Band "Soul Makossa" (1974)
Features their version of Manu Dibango's hit, "Soul Makossa."
Lafayette Afro Rock Band "Malik" (1975)
Lafayette Afro Rock Band "The Ultimate Collection" (New Power Soul, 2001)
Rex Lawson "Greatest Hits" (African Classics, 1997)
Ricardo Lemvo "Tata Masamba" (Mopiato, 1996)
It turns out that some of the best Latin dance music being made in the 1990s wasn't in Cuba, or even Miami or Nueva York... Congolese bandleader Ricardo Lemvo is based in L.A., of all places. and his band, Makina Loca, rocks. I think this may be the best of the Makina Loca albums, opening with a perfect, tight salsa tune, "Mama Kiyelele," before settling into an alternating pattern of African and Afro-Cuban dance styles. While his later albums are also pretty tight, none really recapture the feeling of a new band, bursting with vitality and excitement. Recommended!
Ricardo Lemvo "Mambo Yo-Yo" (Putumayo, 1998)
Ricardo Lemvo "Sao Salvador" (Putumayo, 2000)
On his third album, Lemvo maintains the high standards set by his earlier releases. Switching from salsa into African pop, and back again with astonishing ease, Lemvo has one of the tightest bands this side of King Sunny Ade. There are hints of scary things to come, for example the soul-funk riffs on "Nganga Kisi", but hey, everyone's gotta try something new some time or another. Everything else on the album is a delight, so don't count that one tune as a knock against the album as a whole. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing these guys play live, but it's gotta be a mind-blower.
Ricardo Lemvo "Ay Valeria!" (Mopiato, 2003)
Ricardo Lemvo "Shall We Salsa?" (Trilogy, 2007)
Ricardo Lemvo "Isabela" (Mopiato, 2007)
The Lijadu Sisters "Danger" (Afrodisia/Knitting Factory, 1976/2011)
(Produced by Biddy Wright)
A very cool reissue of the first album by the Lijadu SIsters, practically the only female stars of the Nigerian 1970's pop scene... The Lijadus, sisters Kenhinde and Taiwo, were relatives of the legendary Fela Kuti and performed behind the scenes as session vocalists, and went on to record their first single in the late 1960s, and later toured with prog-rock drummer Ginger Baker during his early '70s foray into African music. The Lijadus released four albums in the 1970s, all produced by and featuring the music of multi-instrumentalist Biddy Wright, whose distinctive funk-meets-psychedelic guitar work gives an unusual edge to this debut disc. The sisters also have fabulous voices and gorgeous harmonies, particularly on the opening tracks (the album's second half is a bit ragged, but the opening track, "Danger" is awesome...) A genuine gem from the classic Afro-Beat scene. This disc is the first of four straight-up reissues of their music, and is definitely worth tracking down.
The Lijadu Sisters "Mother Africa" (Afrodisia/Knitting Factory, 1977/2012)
(Produced by Biddy Wright)
Neat! This album has a much different feel than their first, opening with a beautiful vocal harmony, backed only by sparse talking drums by Ayanwunmi Ayanleke and his band -- only later do the guitars join in, and when they do, there are some really weird, distinctive riffs, stuff that sounds a lot like the art-rock-meets-Africa explorations of Brian Eno and Talking Heads, later in the decade. Hearing the Lijadus sing in Yoruban as opposed to English is a real treat; this sounds like a set of children's tribal chants, but with a mystical, psychedelic edge. An intriguing, unusual album... Highly recommended!
The Lijadu Sisters "Sunshine" (Afrodisia, 1978)
The Lijadu Sisters "Horizon Unlimited" (Afrodisia, 1979)
Lura "Di Korpu Ku Alma" (Lusafrica/Escondida, 2005)
The music of Cape Verde as sung by a younger artist who moves away from the forlorn, nostalgic reflectiveness of the popular morna genre into a brighter, poppier style. Lura has little of the gravity or rich emotional depth of her patron, Cesaria Evora, opting instead for a lighter touch, which may come as a breath of fresh air for some fans of Cape Verdean music, but may leave others feeling a bit letdown. Personally, I wasn't really wowed by this... I didn't care much for Lura's voice, which seems a bit thin to me, or for the musical arrangements and safe, slick tone of the production... But I'm sure many world music fans will find this quite nice; there are some pretty, lyrical passages, particularly later in the disc; it just didn't touch me. This is actually a reissue of an album that came out in 2004, though this time around a second DVD disc of video material from a live concert has been added... A classy package, overall.
Lura "M'bem Di Fora" (Four Quarters, 2006)
Lura "Eclipse" (Four Quarters, 2009)
(Produced by Jose Da Silva)
Another lovely, mellow, complex offering from Cabo Verde. Lura's voice is rich and deep, and the pace on this album is contemplative, deliberate and elegant. She avoids the drama and bombast of the Cape Verdean diva Cesaria Evora, and explores pop pathways that are more in line with a wider African and world-pop framework, producing her best album yet in a promising global career. The beauty of it is how none of it seems forced or precious; this is a nice, low-key album, and stands up to repeated auditions. Worth checking out!
African Artists... Letter "M"
African Music Index
World Music Index