On Monday, December 02, 2013
First of all, the costume on the person on the front cover of this album is the coolest thing in the world, period. That said, onto the music, which should send any fan of world music, particularly the authentic African goods, into fits of near ecstasy. Some of the best releases on this fine label are the ones that feature music by various types of professional or semi-professional performers, as opposed to excerpts of rituals recorded in villages. Since these projects were undertaken on the behalf of the national French radio, the producers often had access to good-quality equipment and were set up well to make great recordings. Practically every different track on this collection of Bakweri, Bamileke, Bamoun, and Beti music is by a different ensemble. The fact that the leaders of these groups are identified by name is not only a step in the right direction, but indicates that the producer regarded these groups as professionals of some sort. Simply listing all the different instrumental combinations in these ensembles would be an essay in itself. But to pick a few, there are xylophone groups, a chorus who creates their own percussion section by having the members wear metallic bells around their ankles, a band of various bells and drums, and a group who combines an ensemble of drums, xylophones, and a horn called a fok with a female chorus. One of the most remarkable tracks is at the end of the first side, by the Mouansie Ahmadou group, featuring a solo singer, a chorus, subtle percussion, and the delicate sound of the mvet, a combination harp and zither with four strings and calabash resonators. Resonating, buzzing, and scraping -- it is all here for one's enjoyment. The intricate vocal part on this piece would send most barbershop quartets scurrying off to find their mouthwash. The record is literally a showcase of unusual instruments as well. Besides the ones already mentioned, there are enormous drums that will rattle speakers as they are pounded. There are piercing bamboo whistles, a xylophone made out of a banana tree, and rattles made with seeds of the same plant. It all adds up to a really beautiful album, and one wonders if the producers had other material recorded during this trip that was never released. Some of these groups could certainly carry an entire release on their own.
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