Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sub-Saharan Music from Angola, Zaire, Kenya & Tanzania


Tonal Bride


Field recordings by ethnomusicologist Dr. Barbara Schmidt-Wrenger and husband Wolfgang Schmid-Wrenger, recorded on a Stellavox and taken from between 1973 and 1976. Genuinely one of the most beautiful records I own. Superior recording technique meets amazing songs from the Sub-Sahara, featuring some instrumentals, but thriving mostly on choral workouts accompanied by various rhythm devices, including a type of gourd that serves as both a wind and percussive instrument (called an issanji - like a thumb piano - see cover). Additional hand clapping, rhythm sticks and some tongue singing offer a totally joyous non-stop groove machine. The “B” side hosts the only guitar tracks, specifically the last two - the final track “Kabwalala” is worth the whole trip. Try NOT playing this one over and over and over. From the liner notes:
“The music of the Bena Luluwa differs markedly from that of their neighbors in Angola: the Batshokwe, Bapende and Balunda. Particularly impressive to the Western ear is the strong polyrhythmic component in their dances and choir songs, handclapping, rattles and drums are brought together in one piece of music, and form an intricate rhythmic webbing.”
Lyrichord Stereo LLST 7313, 1977
Side One:
1. Festival Dance of the Bena Luluwa of Angola (3′02)
2. “Kabibobo” (4′28)
3. Birth Song (2′59)
4. “Issanji” Orchestra (2′09)
5. “Ntambwe mwalula” (2′10)
6. “Moya mae” (3′07)
7. “Bya mwenya” (2′40)
8. “Nadifwilabiani” (Death through Sickness) (1′53)
Side Two:
1. Dance Command (0′37)
2. “Issanji” Orchestra (3′13)
3. “Melanda a nwambamba” (3′55)
4. “Kanuayi” (5′00)
5. “Kabwalala” (11′04)


More tribal sounding than the above, but that makes sense given the ritual emphasis. Recorded by composer and ethnomusicologist David Fanshawe, the sounds here are unique variations in acoustic complexity, where the practice of spiritual healing and music are inextricably linked. I imagine as I listen what it must have been like to witness this stuff being performed, which according to Fanshawe, were nearly extinct traditions back in 1975 when this was released. From the liner notes:
“In this recording, I have tried to capture the spirit of a musical heritage now nearly extinct. The music on this album comes form a part of East Africa whose musical traditions remain largely unknown to the rest of the world. Particularly fascinating is the manner in which music and medicine are combined in the indigenous practice of witchcraft; music takes on the power of medicine, and medicine becomes associated with the healing sound of drums, interwoven with beautiful threads of melody.
Nonesuch Recrods, H-72066 (Stereo), 1975
Side One:
1. Ngoma ra mrongo (Taita, Kenya) (4′50)
2. Mwari Initiation (Taita, Kenya) (1′52)
3. Coconut Pickers Song (Lamu, Kenya) (3′05)
4. Matondoni Wedding (Lamu, Kenya) (2′07)
5. Marimba (Tanzania) (3′07)
6. Tuken Moral Songs (Kenya) (6′10)
7. Giriama Spirit Dance (Kenya) (2′18)
Side Two:
1. Kayamba Dance: Giriama Wedding (Kenya) (4′35)
2. Alto Bung’o Horn (Kenya) (0′42)
3. Akamba Witch Doctor (Kenya) (4′07)
4. Pokot Witch Doctor (Kenya) (3′03)
5. Pokot Dance (Kenya) (1′34)
6. Song of Dawn (Kenya) (2′57)
7. Lukuji (Kenya) (2′57)
8. Nyatiti (Kenya) (3′06)
9. Funeral Dance (Kenya) (2′32)
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(Link to original TONAL BRIDE blogpost for download links)

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