Mauritanaia is a neighbor to Mali, and that's been to its detriment. The musical spotlight has focused heavily on the rich variety of Malian styles, and the country's excellent musicians, while Mauritania has largely been ignored. This won't do much to make any new stars, however, since it's a CD of field recordings made in 1978 by ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya. The focus is on griots, the hereditary caste who are the music makers and historians of society. And these really are field recordings, often made in the desert, and captured completely raw, down to the asides and the coughing. It's certainly not for anyone seeking background entertainment, since it demands a lot from the listener. But the sounds of the harp called the ardin, the tidinit lute, and the t'bol drum can be quite magical, while the male singers don't have the high, mullah grace of their counterparts in West Africa, tending instead toward a roughness that reflects their surroundings. It's an interesting, if dated, document, even if the insight it offers into Mauritania in general is limited.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson