Various Artists

Sacred Flute Music from New Guinea: Madang, Vol. 2

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Part of a series in Rounder reissues of great world music recordings, Sacred Flute Music from New Guinea was originally issued by Quartz in 1979. This album features the "Windim Mambu," or sacred flute music of the Madang region of New Guinea; exclusively performed by men, the music is believed to literally become the cries of the spirits for the women and children who hear it coming from the forest. Flute playing of this type is greatly respected within the tribal culture and both the making of the instruments (which are thought to improve with age, having a life span of about 10 years) and the learning of the music are time-consuming processes for which skill is gained slowly. The style itself is highly regulated -- the flutes may not be played outside of certain ceremonial occasions and must remain hidden at other times, away from those who are not allowed to play them. The flutes are also always played in pairs, and they're usually accompanied by percussion, often with slit gongs called garamuts; different pairs are used for different occasions and there is a prohibition on playing for a period of time after someone has died. The music itself is clear and haunting and this collection offers a variety of flute types for occasions ranging from rites of passage to fertility rituals, births, and marriages. All of the tracks are interesting documents of New Guinean music. The final track, however, is one of the most fascinating, featuring a style of flute called a mo-mo, which is a resonating tube into which the user yodels. This instrument had historically been used during male initiation ceremonies and the sense of mystery around that rite has remained in the music.