Various Artists

Mexican Firecrackers: A Prayer and a Festival

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Despite their limited appeal, there's an obvious value and importance to records like Mexican Firecrackers -- by preserving the rituals and traditions of other cultures, listeners are allowed access to times and places far outside their own spheres of knowledge and influence. One caveat: The culture under the microscope should at least consent to the recording process. Yet on the first side of this LP, archivist Sam Eskin documents a traditional Indian fertility prayer chant by secretly setting up his tape machine in a church in Chamula, Mexico; the back sleeve reads, "This privileged communication never could have been recorded with the knowledge and consent of the village people" -- in other words, it's a shameless violation of a cultural rite in the name of selling a few records. More palatable is the flip, which preserves a festival in the Ajijic region -- the cacophony of firecrackers, church bells, communal singing, brass bands, and even stray animals evokes contemporary experimental music.