Putumayo tries this tack on a frequent basis, and all too often, the results are uninspiring. World Groove largely dodges such a pitfall by emphasizing dance-music flourishes. "Nogo," by Mali's Issa Bagayogo, is only one of several numbers that would work fine in a chill-out room. On The Underground Spiritual Game, remixer Chief Xcel, of Blackalicious fame, imposes a similar philosophy upon cuts left behind by the late Kuti, an acknowledged master of modern African music. On the likes of "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am," Xcel levels out Kuti's rhythms rather than emphasizing the wild highs and lows that made his music so exciting.
If the songs here have been watered down somewhat, enough flavor remains to give receptive listeners a taste for the undiluted stuff. How many of them will be Americans remains to be seen.