Various Artists: Raise Hope for Congo

Various Artists: Raise Hope for Congo
The Enough Project and Mercer Street Records team up to release this star-studded compilation to raise awareness of violence in Congo. While I do not think anyone is surprised to hear there is violence in the Congo, the album’s liner notes highlights some surprising reasons for the violence. The liner notes read “the armed groups perpetuating the violence generate an estimated $183 million each year by trading in illicit minerals, which end up in our electronics, from cell phones to laptops”. I think a lot of people think of obtaining from buying blood diamonds as supporting the cause but even as I type, the machine I type on probably supported the violence in the Congo.
The major target in the war in the Congo is women and girls so the compilation is very female heavy. Some of the more notable female artists on the compilation include Meshell Ndegeocello, Jesca Hoop, Angélique Kidjo, Chantal Kreviazuk, Amel Larrieux, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, and Bat for Lashes. The compilation also features a fair amount of males who are dedicated to the cause as well. Damien Rice, Imaad Wasif, Travis, and Mos Def all contribute.
The compilation’s strong suit is the more traditional African music it includes. The contribution from Staff Benda Bilili really brings you into the streets of the Congo. Their traditional Congolese street music mixes Rodrigo y Gabriela-style guitar work with traditional African percussion and soulful vocals. Mali-duo Amadou & Mariam deliver a funky yet somber sounding track in “Tambara”. The track’s wah-wah guitar and mix of American, French, Middle Eastern, and African influences make for a unique and ear-catching sound.
The major weakness of the compilation is its overall mood.The compilation gets off to a somber tone with Damien Rice’s “Lonely Soldier” and it never gets to the point where it feels fun. Even the normally exciting and joyous Ozomatli deliver a surprisingly downbeat “Never Again”. I know some people will say “the compilation is to promote the awareness of atrocities happening to Congolese women, its not supposed to be a celebration” but I just feel like a compilation promoting hope should have a more upbeat attitude.
Overall, the compilation may not be my cup of tea but it supports a more than worthy cause so I urge you to purchase it. Just to sweeten the deal, only two tracks on the album have been previously released; all the other tracks are live tracks or have been recorded specifically for this compilation. That should tip the scales for fans of any of the groups contributing.
Rating: 6.4/10
MP3: Sheryl Crow “My Name is Mwamaroyi”
Buy: iTunes