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June 1999

Various Artists
Dancing with the Dead: The Music of Global Death Rites
Ellipsis Arts

Ellipsis Arts..., the venturesome label with the signature punctuation marks in its moniker, has presented a number of fine and insightful packages detailing the world's music, usually along geographic or conceptual lines. The latest compilation takes as it subject something truly universal, and a bit disconcerting, at least initially: the subject here is death, and the musical rituals attached thereto. Dancing With the Dead (Ellipsis Arts... 4200; 68:02) is a strangely entrancing package, tidily compiled on one CD and adorned with an elaborate, annotated booklet.

The survey begins on American turf, with a soulful "Funeral Eulogy for Elder Marguerite McClain'' from a church in Pensacola, Florida. It ends, 17 tracks and many cultures later, with "Music for the End of Mourning," from the Central African Republic. Along the way, we hear the joyful rebirth sonorities of Second Line music from New Orleans, via the Eureka Brass Band's "Sing On," and music from Madagascar, Bali, Mexico, Thailand, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The survey is, at once, musical, religious, and ceremonial, covering as it does a diversity of belief systems and rituals connected with life's passing. Aspects of mourning, renewal and catharsis emerge among the musical rituals. As with other Ellipsis Arts... projects, this one also celebrates the phalanx of small labels and world music sources around the world, a networking feat.

Originally published in June 1999
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