10: Beasts, Ghosts and Dancing with History


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10: Beasts, Ghosts and Dancing with History Review

by Chris Nickson

With most of their canon sadly out of print for the moment, this retrospective of Madagascar's best-known band is welcome indeed, and offers a good selection from their work, starting with four cuts from the 1994 debut, Bibiango, that show a band finding its sound -- a sound they explored properly on the ambitious Son Egal, from which three tracks are culled, including one excellent remix. Material from the straightforward D is given an outing, but curiously, there's only one straight audio track from their masterwork, Soul Makassar (the only one of their albums still available). However, put them all together, and you have the music that's largely defined Madagascar to the outside world, with its strange instruments like the valiha, the marovany, and kabosy, the inventive rhythms, and sublime harmonies from the sisters who lead the band, especially Hanitra, who seems to be the foundation of it all. Well selected, the tracks have an easy flow from one to the next, and spotlight both the development and the talents of the band -- the glorious vocals and supremely sharp instrumental talent in addition to a very healthy dose of imagination. Of course, it wouldn't be a compilation without a few rarities, and this has several on offer, from a version of "Ady" recorded live at WOMAD to a couple of remixes ("Madindo" is as effective as the excellent "Avelo") and a pairs of videos, both of Soul Makassar cuts, that serve to highlight the discoveries of the music for its Polynesian roots. This is exactly what a hits collection should be -- no matter that none of these were hits in the West. A sublime piece of work indeed.

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