Africa Djolé

Live: The Concert in Berlin '78

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This was the first European album by the four Guinean musicians known as Africa Djolé. Playing an enormous assortment of drums, hollowed gourds, whistles, broken saw blades, and woodblocks, as well as a harmonica and their voices, this quartet led by African master drummer Fode Youla took their show to Berlin's Free Music Workshop in 1978 and took the whole joint by storm. And while it's true that the album's listeners can't see them dancing and moving along with their music, the sense of that movement is fully evident in the rise and fall, call and response, and continuous juxtaposition of one set of rhythms against or in concert with another. Movement and joy are felt with the introduction of each new rhythm played on the tam tams (drums played by all members of the group) and the sweet, grainy, chant -like singing that weaves its way into the heart of those rhythms. Here, the syncopation is so deft, so seemingly impossible to imagine let alone play, that it plays tricks on the mind of the listener. But despite the incessant percussion and the non-stop talking drums that tell stories Western listeners can only guess at because of the language barrier, this is one of the gentlest recordings of African music ever issued in the West. The "foreignness" of this thoroughly non-white music is displaced by the crowd noise, as well as the deep "funk" in the phrasing.

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