Various Artists

Burkina Faso/Savannah Rhythms

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Originally released in 1981, this superb recording was part of the massive reissue program undertaken by Nonesuch in 2002. Savannah Rhythms collects a varied sampling of music from the sub-Saharan country of Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta. The balafón, a percussion instrument that is antecedent to the marimba and, possibly, the piano, is featured prominently, as on the thrilling opening track, "Allah man dogo." Here, as on many of the songs, the rhythms flow fast and intricate, pulsating with joy and vigor. "Djongo" showcases a mouth harp that's stunning in its plaintive, vocal quality while the lead, female vocal on "Wenlega" is terrifically intense in its trance-like quality. There are flute/drum dances, the chanting of alms, hunter's guitars and funeral processions, all of them both fascinating and richly beautiful. The gourd clarinet heard on the closing track, as well as the general musical ambience, is strikingly reminiscent of early New Orleans funeral processions (and also of the intonation of Rahsaan Roland Kirk!) and gives more than an inkling of one of their sources. A wonderful disc, highly recommended.

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