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Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Australian Aboriginal Music

Speaking of venerable indigenous traditions from around the world subject to latter-day mixologists in search of easy exotica, the didjeridu has shown up in various contexts, far from the yawning expanse of its Aboriginal origins, the world’s oldest extant culture. What we hear too little of is the real thing, which is partly what makes The Rough Guide to Australian Aboriginal Music (World Music Network RGNET 1026; 64:41) so fascinating, and important as a widely distributed compilation in a proverbial music store near you. Taken from ten different albums on tiny labels, the album includes rough-edged, engaging traditional Aboriginal music, from undulating timbral on the didjeridu etudes to pieces with chanting, hand-clapping, and striking out rhythms on sticks and boomerangs. The contemporary segment includes a tune in the intriguingly offbeat folk idiom of Ruby Hunter.

No matter how you slice it or try to Americanize it, Aboriginal music and culture is another world, an ancient world resistant to whatever changes and exploitations the modern world throws at it. Exposure thereto can be a spiritually transforming experience.

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