Various Artists – Ouled Bambara: Portraits of Gnawa (CD + DVD)

January 01, 1970

& Fews/Drag City)


Over the last couple of years, it seems like
everyone and their mother has been jumping aboard the Afropop bandwagon,
whether its Fool’s Gold and Vampire Weekend mining Paul Simon’s Graceland and Talking Heads’ Naked for grooves or The Heliocentrics and Jimi Tenor
working with such African music legends as Mulatu Astatke and Tony Allen
respectively as part of Strut Records’ Inspiration Information series – to
actual African-based bands utilizing American sounds, like the Living
Colour-inspired Blk Jks. So it should come as something of a reprieve to hear
actual indigenous music from the Dark Continent
garner just as much accolades in the press.


Such is the case of Ouled Bambara: Portraits
of Gnawa
, a stunning collection of field recordings compiled by Caitlin
McNally, perhaps best known for her work on the HBO documentary The Ghosts
of Abu Ghraib
and also the primary filmmaker of the 30 minute DVD that
accompanies this album. Named after the suite of Gnawa songs played during the
entertainment portion of a ceremony common amongst this Sufi population of
Morocco, the hour-long recording is rich with solo and group chanting, hand
claps and homemade shakers and instruments such as the lute-like guimbri (the
three-stringed instrument depicted on the cover of this album), all utilized to
create a rhythmic pulse over 400 years old and said to harbor a strong element of
spiritual healing within its trance-like crescendos.


And when compounded with the vivid imagery of the
DVD, Ouled Bambara: Portraits of Gnawa provides an eye-opening education
into a most intriguing microcosm of Sub-Saharan sound culture.


Standout Tracks: “Turku Lila”, “Sheshiyat Bambara”, “Chalabra
Titara”, “Sandiya” RON HART



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