Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Various Artists: Percussions Afrique No. 1: Tchad, 1966
This 45 offers deep drumming from Chad, recorded by the famous ethnomusicologist Charles Duvelle and Michel Vuylstèke for the Ocora label with the cooperation of Chad National Radio, apparently on a recording excursion around the countryside. The music on both sides is beautiful, but I especially recommend the B side played loud. The first cut features two drummers from an ethnic group identified as Mbum in a place called Pao. The second features three drummers that they call Barma and was recorded in Massenya. The first song is available on the CD Mbum du Cameroun (whose liner notes seem to suggest that it was recorded in Cameroon) from the briefly in print label dedicated to Duvelle recordings called Collection Prophet. Somehow the speed of the recording changed between the two releases; the CD version is 13 seconds shorter than this one not including the silence before and after the song.
The liner notes of this 7" make a serious effort to be scientific about their cataloging methods for their recordings. Both recordings are identified by date, place, ethnic (or linguistic?) group, a very minimal statement of the music's purpose and a description of each instrument including its name and how it was played. In spite of this, both tracks are excerpts, not full recordings, and no individual musicians were named on the jacket. I can't help but imagine that Duvelle just went around with questionnaires and a mic trying to make as many recordings as possible instead of talking to any one person for too long and finding out too much about the social significance of any of the music he was recording. It seems like an awkward way to express admiration for these indigenous people in the wake of colonialism, but I guess it's what France was ready for at the time. It is great to be able to listen to this music today, but you wonder exactly what the holders of the purse strings back then expected they would achieve when they financed this project. It was a government project after all. Maybe it was about reconciliation, maybe guilt, maybe something completely unrelated.
In any case, I cannot recommend this music highly enough, especially at high volumes.