"Smooth Africa" might be an alternate title for Putumayo's latest compilation of music from the African continent.

"Smooth Africa" might be an alternate title for Putumayo's latest compilation of music from the African continent. The hard-driving grooves of Afropop, soukous and juju music are de-emphasized in favor of gorgeous balladry built on lilting rhythms and lightly plucked string instruments. Benin's Angelique Kidjo offers the previously unreleased "Sedjedo," sung in the Fon language, a gem of call-and-response vocals, slinky guitar riffs and simmering percussion. Habib Koite's popular "Baro," translated as "The Chat," is intimate and introspective, gaining much from the Malian singer/songwriter's moody vocals and interlocking guitars. Also among the highlights are the commanding lead vocals, surging and falling chorus and glittering bamboo harp plucking of Madagascar-born Rajery's "Misahotaka Ny Akama"; the airy, twisting Afro-Cuban grooves and tangy lead harmonies of "Bana," from Congolese artists Faya Tess and Lokua Kanza; the entrancing, slowly turning "Tradicao," from Cape Verdean singer Gabriela Mendes; and Ivory Coast performer Dobet Gnahore's newly recorded "Palea," sweet and hymnlike. A portion of the album's proceeds will go to African charitable organizations. -- Philip Booth