Various Artists

China: Time to Listen [Box]

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This three-CD set takes a broad look at the rich and varied musical traditions arising out of our planet's most populated nation. An encyclopedic 54-page full-color booklet supplies information on the country as a whole, and includes track-by-track information. It is the third CD in this set, "Spirit and Wisdom", which proves the most striking. Here, the meditative, spiritual music from the land of pagodas is sampled. Especially beautiful and moving is the near a cappella performance of Tibetan pop star Dadon, followed by the equally impressive and shimmering exhibition of the Chinese pipa (lute) by Wu Man. China is a vast and diverse land, home to 54 different ethnic minorities, and disc two, "Many Faces" introduces 20 of those cultures. "Gongs and Drums of the Peking Opera" and the joyous "The Planting Song" are just two of the stand-out tracks on this disc. The lead collection, "Sounds of Our Stories", gives several examples of the traditional way of storytelling through music: in painting a story, the musicians here convey a great deal of emotion and vivid metaphor through their pieces. Try to hear "The Rain Falls on the Leaves of the Banana Tree" and not picture just such a dripping rain forest scene as the title implies. The music is easily appreciable, possessing a bright and human splendor. Production is superb -- an audiophile's dream -- throughout most of the set. Contact information on the artists and notes on originating recordings is covered for each selection.

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