Although also available as part of this label's somewhat ad hoc triple-CD box entitled Drums of South America, this collection of music that has been handed down from the liberated slaves of Venezuela deserves to stand on its own as one of the most haunting as well as relaxing listening experiences from this part of the world. Although any comparison with the other volumes would inevitably just be the result of coincidence, since there was no real aesthetic reason to package the three collections together other than marketing convenience, it helps to describe the music in saying that these conjuntos from Barlovento or tambores from San Juan and San Benito create music with a much more interactive relationship with their environment, as in the world around them, then do the perhaps musically more adept Cubans or the drum-splintering stronghands of the Guadalupe gwo ka tradition. To not be limited by Ocora's choice of box-set playmates, it can actually be said there is not much other music that can be said to be similar to these performances, not even the pieces presented in a Nonesuch Explorer collection that was released in the '70s based on the theme of black music from Venezuela. Producer Michel Plisson seems to have documented particularly deep performances, the drums reverberating through a space that seems timeless. Unless one lives in an urban center in which bird life has been vanquished, the possibility of combining these pieces with natural sounds from the outside world may seem logical and turns out to be inevitable in the performances themselves as small flutes and whistles eventually join the action, seeming to be approximating the sounds of jungle birds. The set concludes with pieces in which the small-stringed cuatro and wonderfully scratchy maracas flesh out the sound.
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AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne