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Various Artists: Tribal, Folk and Cafe Music West Africa

African musical culture is one of the richest motherlodes on the planet, and one that sometimes gets short shrift on the world’s jukebox, leaning as it does towards contemporary and dance-fixated styles of recent vintage. Thankfully, the explorer instinct in field recording gives us recordings such as Tribal, Folk, and Café Music of West Africa (Rykodisc 10401; 55:09). Part of the Endangered Music Project, this collection of 24 tracks comes from a series of field recordings made in West Africa by Arthur S. Alberts in the 1940s. There’s no electric guitar or other Western concession in sight (or sound). What we get, instead, is a realistic and rustic picture of the indigenous musical life, as captured in clubs and cafes, in ritual ceremonies and schools. Vocal chants and songs are accompanied by drums, hand clapping and other pulse-making sounds. It sounds like the pulse of living.

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