Various Artists

Master Drummers of Africa, Vol. 2: Ubuntu

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ARC has a habit of taking their stable of musicians into territories they may not have originally intended -- they're a modern world music label, of course, and fusion is often the order of the day. On Master Drummers of Africa, Vol. 2: Ubuntu, however, there's a different tack taken toward cross-culturalism. The musicians are drummers largely from other ARC albums -- South African Barry Van Zyl, members of the group Amampondo, etc. -- and all are accomplished percussionists with a range of credits to their names. Here, they go on a tour of the great percussion cultures of Africa, touching on the instruments and rhythms of the Xhosa, Malians, Togolese, Congolese, Zulu, and more. They hit Central, West, and Southern Africa without blinking. Perhaps more surprisingly, they rarely sound drastically different while hitting the different cultures' pieces. They're a set of fine musicians, able to power their way through some complex polyrhythms easily, and display some serious musicality inherent to the various styles. What they don't seem to do as much, however, is impart their own souls into the music. The album smacks of a bit of college percussion ensemble -- eager players, technically proficient, without a personal investment in the music. There's a bit of distance, essentially. Despite this, Master Drummers of Africa, Vol. 2: Ubuntu is a fine pick for a very basic introduction to African drumming. There are countless more authentic, and better played, albums out there specific to the various individual cultures, but this one does a decent job of showing the lay of the land.

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