Various Artists

Africa: Ceremonial Music From Northern Dahomey

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It is easy to conceive of the material on this album being edited together completely differently, as in a collection of individual tracks that would more closely fit average audience expectations. But would this really get across the feeling of a ceremony? Probably not, as the owners of many albums of ethnic music would quickly agree. Here is the "Bariba Court Ritual" presented in a hefty 20-minute-plus chunk, beginning with a passage on the four ultra-long telescopic trumpets that sounds like members of a frat party who got stuck in the trombone locker of the band room. Other portions of this track momentarily sound like a bunch of folks standing around prior to the entrance of drumming, the blast of the trumpets, chanting, or recitative portions, or all of these things at once. Dynamics are extremely wide, and if there was ever an album to play loudly in order to confuse or frighten neighbors, this is the one. At first it seems like the drummers are never going to actually start anything, but hang in with them, when they do it is some of the toughest griot performing ever captured, and for once the performance doesn't fade out. After one sizzling portion of drumming, another griot musician steps forward and performs a beautiful song, accompanying himself on the single-stringed moroku, a fiddle that sounds a bit like a wasp captured in a jar. Side two is one of the most fascinating recordings of ritual music available, the "Somba Funeral Ceremony." When Simha Arom writes the following about portions of this piece, it must fill musicians full of envy for not having such a description available for their own work: "What we not so much an organized musical structure but rather a sequence of evocations in sound of the life of the deceased which are superimposed on one another." Again, this has inspired drumming, plus music made from wooden whistles and a trumpet made of antelope horn.

Track Listing

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