African & Afro-American Drums is an anthology of various field recordings from points in and around Africa and the African Diaspora. Many amazing percussion performances are presented on this two-record set. They include such diverse examples as Yoruban drumming ensembles from Nigeria, sacred rhythms from the Afro-Brazilian tradition, and a tasty drum solo by the innovative jazzer Baby Dodds. A variety of instruments -- including the double-sided bata drum, the kettle-shaped gudugudu drum, and the talking dundun or gangan -- are also featured on this album's many cuts. The album itself starts out with a burst of percussion from a Watutsi ensemble. Complex polyrhythmic phrases ebb and flow with the progression of their piece. With the third example, a dance piece played by the Baya people, high-energy drumming is structured around the call and response vocals of a singer and chorus. The fifth band on the record features the music from a Yoruban harvest festival. Vocal chants, metallic percussion, and various shakers are heard in this breakneck tempo piece. Considering the age of the album and the portable recording technology that was available to ethnomusicologists at the time, the sound quality of the recordings on African and Afro-American Drums is surprisingly good. As is always the case with Folkways releases, the notes that accompany this recording are detailed. Though the names of the performers on this release are missing, Harold Courlander is credited with writing the liner notes.
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