Friday, January 04, 2013

DBMITW: Tanzania and Kenya witchcraft & ritual music

These are from a Nonesuch compilation, Tanzania and Kenya Witchcraft & Ritual Music, that has made a big impression on me since the 90's. This first clip features a comical-sounding instrument, the “bungo” horn. To people from the European sphere of influence, for whom purity of tone is a big deal, it sounds like a joke. Your classical trumpet professor would hit the ceiling if you came into your lesson sounding like this:

But it triggers this thing of making the listener question for a moment— Is this music? Is he kidding? What's going on? — which is an important thing to me. It's also present, to varying degrees, in some free jazz, in Paul Motian's drumming, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, and elsewhere.

More after the break:

I actually think a lot about this “witch doctor's” self-accompaniment on what sounds like a primitive berimbau:

Here's a very compressed example of the kind of rhythmic modulation you hear a lot in folkloric African music— each little instrumental break has a strong tension between duple and triplet feels:

Get Tanzania and Kenya: Witchcraft & Ritual Music

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