When talking roots, it's hard to get farther down the musical tree than Africa. So when searching for rootsy compositions evocative of deep blue seas, rural villages where chickens cluck about the streets and a soulful spirituality far removed from the media-saturated din of contemporary life, your first stop should be Putumayo Presents' An Afro-Portuguese Odyssey. As the thirteen cuts on the CD attest, the so-called Lusophone countries of Mother Africa (Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe) have inspired some of the most fertile folk-based music on the globe. These nations, also known as the PALOP countries (for Paises Africanos de Lingua Oficial Portuguesa, or African countries whose official language is Portuguese), achieved independence only within the last thirty years and share histories that include sometimes brutal oppression under Portuguese colonial rule.
The music on Afro-Portuguese Odyssey proffers the sort of earthy percussion, taut rhythms, buoyant string work and uplifting vocal harmonies that have inspired the likes of Sting, Paul Simon and David Byrne. Many of the Lusophone artists on the CD, including Paulo Flores, Eneida Marta, the Mendes Brothers, Ze Manel and Bidinte, record and perform outside their native countries, having relocated to various points in Europe and the United States. Flores and Jovino dos Santos, in particular, have incorporated Caribbean and Cuban instrumentation into their sound, lending further soul to the mix. As Cape Verdean dos Santos emotes on the final track, an Afro-Cuban salsa titled "Africa Mamae," "Children of our homeland/Spread across the entire world/The fight to survive/Is everyone's destiny/Shout 'Mother Africa.'" They might also shout: "Keep jamming!"