Various Artists

Anthology of World Music: Africa - The Ba-Benzele Pygmies

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World music fans have actually been caught drooling over their Unesco African recordings, among which this is a standout in terms of sheer intensity. It isn't just that the rhythms are hypnotic and the voices of the performers beautiful. That might have been enough, but these performances also seem to be particularly cooking, and some of the drum and vocal patterns should be enough to send many rap and turntable artists back to the playground for a few more rounds of pattycake. Listeners familiar with some of the other superb documentations of pygmy music will recognize themes in the text, such as celebratory songs upon the return of hunters from a meat-rich hunting expedition. The combination of simple whistles and similar pitches concocted in the throat, which showed up in New Orleans where they called it "effin'," is beautifully displayed and there are a series of song/stories on the second side that are quite unique. A village storyteller named Mangalo is responsible for these, and he pulls out all stops, creating sound effects almost entirely with his voice and sometimes parts of his body. A large booklet is enclosed, with notes on each song in English, French, and German, and there is a series of handsomely printed black and white photographs that are worth the price of admission by themselves.

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