Various Artists

Voices of Forgotten Worlds: Traditional Music of Indigenous Peoples

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Concentrating on vocal traditions, the two-disc set Voices of Forgotten Worlds delivers cut after cut of wonderful music, frequently in stunning high-fidelity recordings. Producer Brook Wentz' sensitive sequencing minimizes the inevitable discontinuity from one cut to the next. The only flaws would seem to be unavoidable with such a diverse and wide-ranging collection: Individual pieces are too short, and they bear no real relation to one another. Things get off to a rousing start with a Tuvan (south Siberian) song in which the singers form a melody of whistling overtones that careens above their voices. From there the set skips through Japanese, South American, Northern European, Chinese, South Seas, and Australian examples before settling into an insistent Afghan ghazal and a glorious instrumental Newar celebration from Nepal. Performances from Greenland, Mexico, and Azerbaijan give way to the surprising choral singing of the Maori of New Zealand, which seems to bend local tradition with harmonies learned from church hymns. Among the more familiar patterned bells of the Balinese gamelan and otherworldly chanting of Tibetan monks, unique highlights include a hypnotic pan pipe ensemble from the Solomon Islands; a surprisingly gentle chant from the Kayapo (notoriously warlike denizens of the Amazon jungle); a compelling rapid-fire pulse of drums, bells, and a double reed from the Batak people of Sumatra; and a Wodaabe chorus from Niger, whose sinuous, irregular vocal phrases suddenly take form with the addition of hand claps. Rather than displaying various traditions as artifacts to be studied, Ellipsis Arts presents them as music to be enjoyed, an approach that has borne fruit in several of the label's top-notch collections.

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