Various Artists

Alma del Sur: Music of South America

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Though more than half a dozen artists from various regions and countries contributed to this compilation, all of their styles mesh together and complement each other extremely well. The album celebrates the music of South America. Though all the tracks are original, most of them sound as ancient as the secluded mountaintops and jungles that housed their composers' ancestors 1,000 years ago. In contrast, tracks such as "New Amazon" lend a modern, jazzy touch. Argentine composer Bernardo Rubaja contributes four tracks, including the lilting, infectious "The Hill of Seven Colors" (track one). Composer Junior Homrich, best-known for scoring The Emerald Forest, offers up two jazz-influenced paeans to the Brazilian rainforest. Other contributors include Bolivian quartet Rumillajta, Brazilian guitarist Nando Lauria, and pioneering world music group Ancient Future. As many as a dozen traditional instruments are used in each of the album's songs. In addition to well-known instruments such as the congas and the marimba, the contributors to Alma del Sur evince mastery of the berimbau, the Paraguayan harp, and many other instruments that are largely unknown in North America. Though the instrumentation of most tracks is very complex, the melodies and themes are simple and infectious. They are evocative of dirt roads, secluded streams, and tiny village squares in the hidden reaches of Venezuela and Peru. The composers have succeeded in using modern recording technology to create authentic traditional music.

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