One of the best world-music albums this year was made on American soil though the guy who made it, San Francisco's Sila, is a Kenyan expatriate. On his debut album with the AfroFunk Experience, Sila draws from a wide variety of influences like Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley, and Fela Kuti. He also covers a diverse spectrum of African-inflected sounds, from Nigerian Afrobeat to Congolese soukous, South African township jive, Senegalese Casamance music, Afro-Brazilian samba, and Jamaican reggae. The grooves remain focused, though, and Sila's impassioned vocals, sung mainly in English, easily move from Fela-esque sing-speak to traditional call-and-response to poignant balladry. He's just as effective at party-oriented tunes like "Dancing Shoes" as on socially aware anthems. Throbbing melodic lines inform every track, delivered with reggae-style bass lines, soulful guitar runs, extended percussion breaks, and horn arrangements that span the gamut from punchy to melancholy. If he's not the funkiest man in all of Africa, Sila can claim that title for the Bay Area at least.
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