Various Artists

Percussions d'Afrique [African Drums]

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Expanding and contracting musical forms, richly embroidered polyrhythmic patterns, and highly developed group dynamics characterize the Cameroonian and Senegalese percussion ensembles featured on Percussions d'Afrique: African Drums. Balafons (wooden-key xylophones with gourd-resonator frames), jembés (goblet-shaped hand drums), sundry rattles, and a large variety of other percussion instruments are heard on the CD's 11 tracks. From the oscillating and contrapuntal sounds of the drum ensemble featured on the opening track, "Danses Sénégalaises," to the shekere-grounded sounds on the album's last cut, "Danse des Hochets," a plethora of metric, rhythmic, and melodic explorations are heard. Unfortunately, the sketchy liner notes convey neither the identities of the performers nor the specific names of the places where the recordings were made. In addition, an overgeneralized assertion in the liner notes that "Africa's music culture...is dominated by percussion instruments" is a bit too simplistic. Africa is home to many diverse cultures and musical traditions, not all of which are adequately reflected by the sounds of West African percussion music. Though this cursory treatment in the liner notes is shortsighted, it does not affect the vivid and compelling nature of the field recordings presented here.

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