Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Only the Poorman Feel It: South Africa [Hemisphere, 1995]
Relying on EMI-affiliated artists with longterm pop ambitions, this modern mbaqanga compilation seems decisively postapartheid even though not all of it is that recent. What once might have sounded like a forced identification with a contemptuous oppressor now seems more like a forced expropriation of the oppressor's cultural capital. The great moments come from 25-year expatriate Busi Mhlongo, whose only solo album begins with the same seven-minute flight of exultant woman power that kicks off this record, and urbane revolutionary Mzwakhe Mbuli, who praises a 19th-century African king to a 21st-century African arrangement. But the glitzy production extras sound as township as the kwela fiddles throughout. A-