Various Artists: Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond

It’s another corner of the African experience entirely that forms the core of the new package Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond (Ellipsis Arts 3510; 74:54). Jali Kunda (Griot Family) offers at least a cursory glance at the ancient tradition of music-making, mythologizing, and oratory that is the griot’s calling. Produced by Foday Musa Suso-who has helped spread awareness of the griots abroad as any single figure-and Bill Laswell, and with cameo appearances from figures as diverse as Philip Glass and Pharoah Sanders, the album is hardly a purist examination of the griot tradition. Instead, it presents 75 minutes of music from both the heart and the cross-cultural periphery of traditional West African music. True to form for Ellipsis Arts projects, this one is handsomely packaged, with a booklet suitable for coffee table perusers, chock full of color photography, an essay by Suso and an illuminating forward by Robert Palmer.