Authentic African Tunes with Western Production Values
P. Kingsriter | Lakeville, MN United States | 03/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All ethnic music appreciation education should be this fun! The Putumayo production company has done what had previously seemed impossible: Allow African artists to play THEIR music, not westernize it into unrecognizability (ala Deep Forest), but expertly produce it with a quality and clarity not previously available in that continent. This is one excellent album.
Some high points: 1) The music is a fine cross-section of African musicology. There's representation from literally every continental compass point. The selections demonstrate a fine variety from the South African song that according to the liner notes inspired THE TOKENS hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)", to a West African tune that has shades of a breezy mediterranean luluby.
2) The performances are excellent. (I lived in Kenya for a number of years and THEM MUSHROOMS, the presenters of "Jambo Bwana", were very frequently on the AM dial, though they never sounded this good!) These are authentic African groups (not afro-americans/europeans making music that attempts to SOUND african). That makes all the difference, as AFRICAN PLAYGROUND sounds decidedly non-western (those looking for a Lion King or Rugrats-like soundtrack are likely to be surprised but not for a second disappointed), but still holds all the joy and spontenaety that African music is known for. A number of songs (eg: Battu, and Kalimba) practially dare you not to bob your head in time, regardless of your age.
3) There's educational value here, and not just from the experience of new music. Putumayo provides outstanding liner notes, explaining the origin and meaning of each song, providing some info about its nation, and phoentically spells out a number of the lyrics. My three-year-old now knows how to greet someone in Swahili, and that happenned effortlessly and inadvertantly through the catchy tune "Jambo Bwana".
4) It's FUN! "Kalimba", a favorite of mine and my little one, will have you imagining yourself bouncing along on a dusty safari almost instantly. Each tune brings new energy to the listening experience and there are no "throw-away" tracks. Please pardon the cliche, but this is an album that the whole family can enjoy. The songs are lively and colorful enough to hold the attention of the little ones, but sophistocated enough for the adult palate. Just note that this is not a bed-time disc... ;-)
Of the Putumayo albums I've sampled, this is by a wide margin my favorite. It comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys good music, and especially to those seeking to expand their music library with a bright, upbeat, African album."
Great. music...and that coming from a real (non-commercial)
Akuakwart | NYC | 02/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc is great, the whole family, including our two-year old son! He requests "Jambo Bwana" whenever he sees us reach for the CD! Some of these are artists I grew up listening to in Zambia! No Disney commercialism here - I mean should we stop using our ancient phrases like "Akuna Matata" just because it was a buzz word (phrase) a few years ago? I think not. This was my first Putumayo Kids CD and it has encouraged me to look into the rest of the collection (which is why I'm browsing through Amazon right now)."
You Don't Have To Have Kids To Love This!
Emily Macdonald | Eastham, MA USA | 02/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After seeing "The Last King of Scotland" (decidedly NOT for the kiddies!!!), I desperately wanted some African music, so I went online and found "African Playground". I listened to the samples, ordered the CD, and upon receiving it, was surprised (and somewhat embarassed) to see that its intended audience was children.
"Oh well," I said to my dog, "what the heck. I'm pretty immature anyway..." So I tried it out, and became completely addicted.
There is such a wide variety of styles, instruments, and languages throughout the disc, one could never become bored listening to it, and there's not a bad song in the bunch. What unites all of them is their unquestionable beauty and contagious happiness. One of the songs (Track 3, by the Mahotella Queens) is so beautiful it actually made me cry the first time I heard it!
While I have no doubt that kids would enjoy it, adults shouldn't be afraid of falling in love with with this gorgeous, cheerful, utterly charming CD.
P.S. My dog likes it too :)"