Various Artists

Africa: Anthology of the Music of Chad, Vol. 1: Les Sara

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The set of three volumes devoted to music from the country of Chad might perhaps get the gold star for the Ocora label's series of ethnic music recordings, although such a judgement is ridiculously difficult to make. Suffice to say, whether acquired separately or in the form of a three-record box set, these recordings form a compulsive argument as to why music listeners become attracted to these sorts of performances. The music heard on these sets is simply unlike anything else available. Each set presents wonderfully clear recordings accompanied by detailed liner notes and stunning photography. This volume includes music of the Gor people played on a koundou xylophone, which features a membrane made from a bat's wing used at the end of the resonating tubes. The music of the Kaba involves rhythmic cycles alternating between voice and whistle. It is at first reminiscent of pygmy music, but later takes on a life of its own through a tremendous rhythm set up on the kondale drum as well as spirited shreiking, calabash rattling, and blasts on animal horns. Madjingaye music includes amazing sections involving a polyphonic choir, a vocal soloist interacting with several men who whistle back at him, and some hand-clapping that could make a metronome cower in fear. One of the most impressive tracks, the example of Kabbe-Deme music, may sound like several musicians, but is actually a solo on a really unique xylophone called a kende. The resonators alone create a sound like some kind of small organ or hurdy gurdy, combined with the lovely sound of singing over the top. The way some of the tracks build up layer after layer almost suggests some kind of demented mixmaster at work, although the best part is realizing that nothing like that is necessary, let alone desirable. A mixmaster was responsible for fading some of the tracks, certainly a shame since any of the sides could have been a bit longer without sacrificing much in the way of sound quality.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
4:05
2
7:32
3
3:14
4
2:30
5
3:00
6
2:35
7
3:37
8
3:10
9
5:30
blue highlight denotes track pick