The many tribes that inhabit the Mandara Mountains in the northernmost province in Cameroon in sub-Saharan Africa are primarily agrarian communities relying on farming and raising livestock. The region is comprised of a number of different tribes, including the Moufou, the Moufou-Goudour, Mouyang, and Ouldémé. All of them have their own musical traditions and instruments, though they do share some in common. Musicians for the most part are not professional in these cultures and the music created -- and often the instruments chosen to play it -- are, more often than not, composed and performed for different parts of the agrarian cycle. The music presented here comes from the mountain peoples mentioned earlier. This collection highlights both vocal and instrumental music, but it primarily relies on showcasing the place of the aerophones (an instrument played with the mouth that is hollow), especially flutes, which are highly varied in construction having been made from clay, shell, wood, bark, bamboo, or reed. Thus, the flutes play a key role in that their materials dictate the different timbres and sonorities. As to the music itself, the 19 selections found here highlight aspects of all seasonal musics from all the peoples represented. There are similarities often in instrumentation yet highly individualized approaches: some cultures such as the Moufou use drums, while some others such as the Mouyang do not. The sounds here are field recordings, authentic and treasured as some of these traditions are disappearing rapidly as more and more land, even in the remotest regions, is being snapped up and developed for various financial interests. The sophisticated melodic and rhythmic approaches these peoples employ in the music of everyday life is rich with unusual harmonies and completely exotic notions of interval and melody. The selections found here are laborious to get through in one sitting, but over repeated listening they prove a rewarding treasure.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek