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Various Artists: Lukas Ligeti & Beta Foly

The story behind the intriguing cross-cultural project, Lukas Ligeti & Beta Foly (Intuition 3216; 75:09), begins in 1994 with a grant from the Goethe Institute, which subsidized a trip to the Coast of Ivory by Ligeti, son of the illustrious Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, and an avid, adventure-minded drummer. In the city of Abidjan, Ligeti led workshops and spawned the group of gifted West African musicians which became known as Beta Foly (“The Music of Us All”). Two years later, Ligeti and the still extant group, a dozen players strong, joined forces to create this unique blend of avant garde notions and traditional West African sonorities, with balaphones, reeds, drums galore, chattering guitars and vocals happily coexisting with cut ‘n paste electronic passages, courtesy of sampler-wielding Kurt Dahlke.

The freewheeling hybridizing begins early: the opening track, “Samaya,” a joyful tune interspersed with electronic hijinks, including some kinetic, atonal guitar flexing from Henry Kaiser, another world music-sensitive experimentalist who has played with Ligeti in other settings. It concludes, 15 tunes later, with the ambitious 12-minute suite, “Le Chant de Tout le Monde” (“The Song of Us All”), again with Kaiser in tow, and Sarah Cahill’s salon-suitable piano playing contrasting with the loopy saxophone patterns by Nicolas Ossomba. Overall, the album is a polyrhythmic and unabashedly polycultural feast of sounds and ideas, a successful and disarming merger. It’s hardly pure, but also anything but predictable.

Originally Published