Various Artists

Music in the World of Islam, Vol. 6: Drums & Rhythms [Tangent]

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This label created the series entitled Music in the World of Islam by gathering up performances featuring various instrument families and then dividing these up among six different albums, available individually and inside a gargantuan box. More than a dozen countries are involved in this epic survey, including some remote areas as well as the heavily recorded scenes of India, Iran, and Morocco. The Topic label created even more of a chop suey out of this material in the '90s by reorganizing it onto three CD volumes. In its original form, it allows a more concise focus on various instruments, while in either case the performances are generally of such good quality that the mishmash nature of the anthologies becomes moot. The same can be said for this percussion set, which -- prior to some of the volumes produced by Mickey Hart -- was one of the best ways to check out a variety of superb drum performances from different parts of the world on one vinyl slab. Yet if a listener is arriving to these ports of destination after listening to the first five volumes in the series, some familiar faces show up. While it seems like it should have been possible to avoid any repetition of artists in such a broad anthology of countries and styles, listeners have characters such as Salim Allan and his hearty gang of pearl divers showing up again to provide another example of what seems like a bottomless repertoire. Of course the instrument families would overlap with some of the ensembles that have been featured in this series, meaning that a few of the drummers featured here also play on some of the earlier volumes accompanying various horns or stringed instruments.

The players here would certainly liven up the neighborhood drum circle if they all showed up one night. There is the under-the-arm goblet drum known as zerbaghali, zarb, or darabuka. The Sultan of Dosso's orchestra marches in with four large parade drums called tabl; the shawm called an alghaita is shreiking away up front, as it does on the Reeds and Bagpipes volume. An Indian drum group plays delightful dance music featuring dholak, duff, duffli, and chimta, the latter instrument a set of a jingling tongs. The performance by a vocalist from Bahrain could have fit into the first volume in the series, The Human Voice, but is included here because accompaniment is provided by three jingly frame drums called tar. The Pakistani equivalent of a rook or "Jew's harp" is called a chang, and listeners hear two demonstrations, the first an instrumental solo and the second an example of its use in an accompanying rhythmic capacity. These are incredible performances, and one of the rare examples of this type of Pakistani music that is available. The aforementioned pearl divers show up with small cylindrical drums called muruas, more tabl, and three jahela, which are simply earthenware pots. There is also an Indian tabla solo, one Algerian piece featuring metal iron clappers called qaraqeb and another with kettledrums called naqqara, a zarb or large Persian goblet drum, and a piece performed on the mihbash, a heavy wooden mortar and pestle used in Jordan to grind coffee. The latter performance should become a favorite in the "Joe" heavy music scene. The weirdest cut is a little recording of the mystic Al Haq dervishes jamming in an attempt to reach an ecstatic state. The Moroccan girls who close out the album with their vocal ululating are already there. All in all, a fine collection of pieces, although in context of the entire set it is a bit of a "been there, done that."

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