African Head Charge

Song of Praise

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Not very many reggae albums acknowledge Alan Lomax in the credits. But then, African Head Charge (a band with a constantly changing membership led by percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah) doesn't really make typical reggae albums. Although the one-drop beat (provided on this album by Lincoln "Style" Scott) influences everything and the basslines have a typical tidal undertow, the stuff that Noah layers on top of the mix has more to do with ethnomusicology than the dancehall. The song titles say it all: "Cattle Herders Chant," a field recording of call-and-response chanting overlaid with Nyahbinghi drums and highlife guitar; "My God," eerie, minor-key African-American church singing supported by a chugging reggae bassline, bare-bones drumming, and the sound of running water; "Deer Spirit Song," an unidentifiable indigenous song in 9/8 meter with a gently driving rockers beat and occasional sound effects thrown in. This is an exceptionally beautiful album, but in a deeply strange way.

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