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Seeds of Djuke

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Album Review

Jazz hasn't been as great an influence on African pop as soul and funk have been, but there is still plenty of jazz-influenced African pop to be found if you know where to look for it. Jazz has influenced countless Ethiopian artists, and it has also influenced everyone from Rasha in the Sudan to the late Fela Kuti in Nigeria. Meanwhile, guitarist/vocalist On Ka'a Davis' Seeds of Djuke is, to a large degree, an example of jazz-influenced African pop from the United States. The Cleveland native turned New York City resident was once of a member of Sun Ra's Arkestra, and the influences on this 2009 release range from Ra to Kuti to John Coltrane to Malian music. Seeds of Djuke is Afro-pop meets post-bop and electric free jazz, but despite being avant-garde at times, this 72-minute CD is fairly accessible overall. There are some abstract, cerebral, dissonant moments, but more often than not, Davis maintains a strong sense of groove and keeps those grooves infectious. And despite having grown up in the United States, Davis never sounds like someone who has only a passing interest in the pop music of Sub-Saharan Africa; in fact, Seeds of Djuke gives the impression that he has spent a considerable amount of time checking out what Afro-pop in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali, and other countries has to offer. But again, Seeds of Djuke wasn't recorded anywhere on the African continent — it was recorded in the U.S. (specifically, New York City and northern New Jersey), and Davis has no problem demonstrating that excellent Afro-pop can come from North America.

Seeds of Djuke, On Ka'a Davis
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