Poised in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa is the island of Madagascar. Home to about 14 million people, the island's two official languages, Malagasy and French, speak to the island nation's diverse cultural heritage. Malagasy belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian linguistic family. Though it is strikingly similar to certain languages found in South Central Borneo, it has developed connections with Arabic, Bantu, and some French linguistic elements. Like the variously influenced make up of the Malagasy language, the music of Madagascar is at once unique and an amalgam of sounds from disparate cultural traditions. The Music of Madagascar release from Yazoo admirably showcases this singular diversity by presenting 20 tracks of music from the country that was originally recorded during the 1930s in both Paris and Madagascar. As far as one can gather from the sometimes confusing prolixity of the liner notes, this CD is a compilation of works by Hiran'ny Tanoran'ay Ntao Lo, Hiran-d Razafimahefa, and other native artists. The fiddle, an instrument introduced to the island by French missionaries, is featured on "Hadalana, Hadisoana" and "Indrisy Mantsy Zareo Mpilalo Tsy Manan Tiana," while an indigenous tube zither known as the valiha can be heard on many of the CD's 20 tracks. All in all, this is a beautiful collection of older music form Madagascar that is as exquisite as it is unique.
AllMusic Review by John Vallier