Various Artists

Central African Republic: Aka Pygmy Music

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Definitely a high point in the Unesco Musical Sources series, this collection of 1971 field recordings from what was once the Central African Republic contains music that might send a critic spinning through all possible words of praise without coming up with a way to truly describe the musical happenings. There is not a dud track in the collection, and listing highlights may inevitably lead to simply listing every performance. However, mention must definitely be made of "Mongombi," a performance consisting of shouts, short sung phrases, and other eerie vocal sounds that are actually part of a hunting technique where the pygmies surround animals they are interested in capturing, and are able to herd them and eventually capture them by frightening and diverting them with sound. This track is a mind-blower! Then there is the opening track on the second side, "Kokoyandongo," which has enough happening rhythmically to put a continent of discos out of business. Sounds are made by handclapping, drums played by both bare hands, and sticks of wood and two iron blades struck against each other. From here we move on to several selections highlighting the music of children, who in this tribe are initiated into musical performance and practice at a very young age. There is also fascinating call and response music made by vocal soloists using a "mobeke," which is a small whistle made from the stem of a papaw plant. And there is wonderful yodeling and several vocal ensemble numbers that bring to mind the dense, complex polyphony of Ethiopian vocal music. All in all, one of the prime African albums to add to a collection.

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