The world revolves and so the movement of musical cross-currents, interacting and enmeshing across its surface, grows denser by the day. Only one man can make sense of it all, and his name is Andrew "Litch" Litchfield, sometime record-producer, loose-cannon A&R man, epic ligger and hype artist.
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This is the real Africa, the one that tourists never see, and if they did would never understand; and this is real African music, primaeval, visceral, undiluted by the sheen and gloss of Western production values. Or so thinks Andrew "Litch" Litchfield, collector extraordinaire of African music, "World Music" expert, record-label owner, and narrator of Mark Hudson's novel The Music in My Head.
As readers, we see everything from Litch's perspective as he returns to Africa, to N'Galam, capital city of the fictional Tekrur, in search of Sajar Jopp, "Africa's greatest musician"--and it is a disturbing and unpleasant perspective, through which Litch's arrogance and self-regard become painfully apparent. What redeems him, however slightly, is the love he has for these musicians, their cassettes and records--deliciously described and evoked by Hudson, himself a notable writer on African music.
This ironic distance allows the book a snowballing comic energy, as Litch becomes the architect of his own undoing, and as mistakes become mishap and downright farce, but also allows us to see how complex are the relationships between Europeans and Africans: the legacies of colonialism, the shifting patterns of mastery, the formless ubiquity of commerce, and, ultimately, the sheer difference of cultures. Mark Hudson, author of two acclaimed works of non-fiction, gives us here a fiction which is both richly humorous and insightful, sharing perhaps the territories of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity or Martin Amis's Money in its explorations of masculinity and self-delusion, but also engagingly original in its merciless depiction of the European abroad. Litch's "real Africa" is a nightmare of his own making, and Africa itself remains a dream he will never reach. --Burhan Tufail
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