Putumayo World Music offers another hit in its string of winning compilations with "Global Soul," above.

Urban soul
around the world

"Global Soul"
Various artists
Putumayo World Music

By Gary C.W. Chun

The Putumayo World Music label continues its long trend of listener-friendly world music samplers with this excellent compilation of music heavily influenced by urban soul, that hybrid of American neo-soul and hip-hop.

With the exception of one track, all the artists sing and rap in their native languages. What makes "Global Soul" particularly captivating is the music's accessibility to American fans of this groove-ful sound, so while you may not fully understand what's being conveyed lyrically (helpful, if brief, translations of some of the lyrics are provided), the familiar sound should help you meet this polyglot project more than halfway.

The track "Braided Hair" by 1 Giant Step, a collaborative project headed by British musicians and multimedia artists Duncan Bridgeman and Jamie Cotto, is already out as a full-fledged CD and DVD joint release. It's just a little taste of what they put together, with the help on this track by former Arrested Development rapper Speech, fellow Brit Neneh Cherry (of "Buffalo Stance" fame) and American Indian female vocal group Ulali.

"Global Soul" is also especially valuable for its two previously unreleased songs: a fine example of the Marseilles Afro-Groove scene in "Nit Kit (The Immigrant)" by Senegalese duo Saf Sap, who sing and rap in their native Wolof language; and "Nika Pata Lambo (Such a Thing)" by the superb Kaïssa Doumbé, who sings in her native Douala. She's now a New York City resident.

Doumbé's track is one of four standout songs on this 13-track compilation. The others include "Caramel" by the provocatively named Doc Gynéco, a k a Bruno Beausire, the son of Guadeloupe immigrants to France. His is a sensuous, stream-of-consciousness song that would be a hit in any language. A great arrangement allows various musical elements to stand out in stark relief from each other while blending beautifully in an organic way.

The same can be said for Joy Denalane's "Höchste Zeit (It's About Time)." The daughter of a South African father and a German mother, Denalane successfully smoothed out the usually rough-sounding German language to make her one of the country's more popular R&B artists. The song has an appealing texture, maintaining a pulsing beat with the sounds of marimba, horns and a tangy guitar solo.

The other standout song, "Tentei (I Tried)" is a tasty amalgam of funk and soul from Brazilian artist Aricia Mess.

You would expect mellifluous languages like Portuguese, French and Italian to fit hand in glove with urban soul -- just listen to Brazil's answer to Madonna, Fernanda Abreu, on "Eu Quero Sol," the Congolese-French duo Melgroove on "J'attendrai (I Will Wait)" or "Senza Trucco (No Trick)" from the Italian group Traccia Mista for proof positive.

But, after second thought, the tones of the Korean language would be perfect as well, and you've got a prime example of that with "Kkeut Up Neun Ba Da Jun Pyun Eh (Beyond the Ocean)" by Tasha and Bobby Kim. Tasha was born Natasha Shanta Reid in Texas to a Korean mother and an African-American father, and now lives in her ancestral country as Yoon Mi Rae.

Excuse the painfully obvious pun, but "Baby T" and her rapping partner show that Seoul's got soul.

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