Various Artists

Chad: (Kanem) Music of Kanem

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The rival Ocora label has released three separate albums of music from the country of Chad, also available in an oversize box, which along with this album makes for a pretty impressive collection of musical performances by anyone's standards. Does Chad rule or what? Baren Reiter itself has some ten albums devoted to various African countries, all packaged with marvelous black-and-white photography and liner notes in English, French, and German. An argument could be made that this is one of the most musically fascinating sets from that series. Simply the opening salvo for the first few tracks might be enough to make even the veteran world music listener run up a white flag. "Professional Drummers" is a wonderfully understated (unintentionally, to be sure) title for a duet played on three different drums; the rhythms are a killer antidote for much of the slick, over-produced sounds of commercial radio. The same can be said for the fifth track, which again comes with a fitting title, "A Set of Drums." This is pretty amazing stuff. "Song to Drive Birds into a Trap" is a charming vocal duet by 13-year-old boys with a sophisticated arrangement. Solos on homemade double-reed instruments -- a reed clarinet and a two-note trumpet that is sometimes hauled out to welcome the Sultan -- are all memorable. "Song of the Tuareg Women," an extended piece which closes out the first side before regretfully fading out, is one of the best examples of the ululating vocal technique from Islamic countries that one will ever hear, accompanied by thrilling handclap groups and a subtle, lower-toned hand drum. Recording quality is superior, and the editing and programming by Paul Collaer shows a really strong ear for the subject.

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