Tribal, Folk and Café Music of West Africa

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Pearl
PERFORMER: Various
CATALOGUE NO: GEMS 0130

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Classically-based readers will know the Pearl label for its historical remasterings, but it has a short list of black American music, to which it has now added some extraordinary West African tapes from the 1940s. A two-person American team made these TRIBAL, FOLK AND CAFÉ recordings, visiting city and country and powering their tape machine from the jeep engine for out-of-the-way villages.

The result is a unique record of times when everybody still knew the songs and traditional instruments were easy to find. The brilliance lies in the selection of short extracts to make at least one CD packed with real musical communication. The notes pick out sources of familiar Cuban ingredients, and there are pieces with kora and guitars from Guinea that point towards Baaba Maal.

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Much of the second CD is taken up with songs and choruses like Americanised music hall, some featuring a clapped-out piano. But the rest is riveting and needs at the least to be in every educational collection.