April 15, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Africa Never Stand Still

Current Status
In Season
Various Artists
We gave it an A-

African music: Maybe you loved Paul Simon’s Graceland, dug the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Life Savers commercials, even went out on a limb and bought a Youssou N’Dour album after listening to his passionate wail on Peter Gabriel records. Or maybe you heard all those unpronounceable names singing their hearts out in non-English and said the hell with it-too many countries, styles, and stars, too little time. So maybe you should try Africa Never Stand Still (Ellipsis Arts), a three-CD sampler that’s one of the first one-stop-shopping packages to make sense of the continent’s musical bigness.

A lot of the major names are here: Ladysmith, N’Dour, Thomas Mapfumo, Salif Keita. Others are missing: Franco, Fela, the Mahotella Queens. It doesn’t matter much. The idea is to show as many points as possible on the graph where East meets West, acoustic meets electric, and seamless rock & roll meets ancient rhythms and melodies. There’s a rather lovely picture book that lays it all out for you, but the music-deep, glad, and kickass in a way that American pop has long lost sight of-is the best explanation. This is the set for those who’ve been looking for an excuse to dip their toes in the water. The water, of course, is fine. A-

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