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AfroCubism: A lost classic lives

Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club

Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club Photo Credit: Getty

For the millions of listeners who made “Buena Vista Social Club” one of the biggest world music albums ever, it may come as a surprise that the legendary session was a happy accident.

In 1996, a host of Mali’s finest musicians were set to fly to Cuba to record with the local talent, but visa issues scuttled their plans. Producers Ry Cooder and Nick Gold were forced to make new plans.

Fourteen long years later, Gold made good on his original scheme and “AfroCubism” is the precious result, an exploration of the Afro-Cuban tradition that pairs stars from both sides of the Atlantic.

To celebrate, amNY selected five albums to satisfy readers seeking more of this sensational sound:

‘Welcome to Mali’ by Amadou & Mariam
This blind husband-and-wife Malian duo radiate joy and have recorded together for decades, but their soulful 2008 album is perhaps the most refined dose yet of their multifarious Afro-pop talent.

‘Specialist in All Styles’ by Orchestra Baobab
The legendary Senegalese band splintered in ‘87, but a rerelease of their ‘82 Afro-Latin classic “Pirates Choice” proved splendid, and they reunited in ‘02 to record a new album that is its forebear’s improbable equal.

‘Mali Music’ by Damon Albarn & Various Artists
In the early-00’s, the Blur/Gorillaz frontman made known his affections for West African music, but the Britpop star’s album with artists including Malian kora master Toumani Diabaté was better than anyone would have dared hope.

‘Badenya: Manden Jaliya in New York City’ by Various Artists
The jaliya style dates to 13th-century Mali, but these modern, NYC-based practitioners bring an effervescent urban ardor to the sturdy Manden tradition of lute, balafon, and virile vocals.

‘Viaje a la Semilla’ by Sierra Maestra
This Havana-based group debuted in ‘81, but burn equally bright in the new millennium and this ‘01 release is a potent primer for their lively big-band interpretation of classic Cuban son.

If you go: AfroCubism plays Town Hall tonight at 8, 123 W. 43rd St., 212-840- 2824, $35-$65.


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