By all means, take a chance on this record! It's an infectious blend of African rhythm and Middle Eastern trance. Congolese keyboardist and bandleader extraordinaire Ray Lema, synthesizes the Gnaoua music traditions of sub-Saharan Morocco with black African rhythms and vocal chants to cast a spellbinding sonic excursion into world beat. If you've never taken a chance on world beat, this is definitely a fine place to start. Reminiscent of some of the best fusion trance sessions of King Sunny Ade, Lema delivers complex rhythms, mysterious lyrics and a solid exotic back beat, puctuated by the occasional electric guitar fills. I was only vaguely familiar with Lema through listening to fellow Zairean, Tabu Ley Rochereau, but Lema has the chops to hold the diverse stylings of this album together. Lema draws from so many tropical styles including Haitian and Brazilian but his songs never sound cluttered. Rather Lema achieves a near perfect blend of styles in the best tradition of Afro-pop that has a slightly jazzy feel to it.
This album can and "demands" to be listened to closely to take in all of the nuances of the rhythms or one can play it just for unwinding and relaxation. This record has piqued my curiousity to check out more of Lema's material. Highly recommended for the specialist in world beat or for the beginner, "Safi" by Ray Lema is a refreshing breeze of modern Afro-pop. 5 Stars!