Read the following world music reviews at the last part of this page:
Circle Percussion & Anumadutchi: Drums of the World
Ondekoza: Fujiyama - Ondekoza: Legend - Nihon Daiko: The Japanese Drums
Kodo x 2: The Hunted (Soundtrack from the movie) & Live at the Acropolis
Brent Lewis & Peter Wood (Australia):
Thunder Down Under
ANTONIO ZEPEDA: Masterful musical imagery and shamanistic energy. Antonio Zepeda is a multi-musician from Mexico, a percussionist, an artist with a fine, impressionistic ability to create pictures in the mind of the hearer. He creates images with sound - perhaps closest to the Native American shamanist tradition. But he is a modern musician, working with multi-track recording, and utilising hi-fidelity stereo to the extent that he creates a finely structured 3-dimensional world of living sound. One experiences for example, not only left and right, but also a depth perspective in his music, giving the feeling of sitting right in the middle of his picture. The instruments he uses here are all of Native American origin - many of them are ancient artifacts found in archeological diggings in Mexico. Close your eyes while you listen, and you're in the Mexican jungle, in the world of Don Juan.
Give yourself a treat, on our recommendation, and listen
to the music of Antonio Zepeda!
These are tapes with hi fi quality:
- Corazon del Sol is the most rhythmic tape, and therefore
the most immediately captivating. - La Region del Misterio
is least rhythmic, most "occult". - - Templo Mayor
is a mixture, and is extra long. All prices: 115.-
MASTER DRUMMER MUSTAPHA T. ADDY (Ghana): Order either Royal
Drums of Ghana or Come and Drum. West African drums
to dance to, without fancy frills. Just doing what they do, for
your enjoyment. Latest: Come and Dance, with Rolf Exler
and Michael Kütner on percussion, and others on trumpet,
bass etc. They all keep it cooking. 149.-
AFRICA DJOLÉ (Guinea): Once more the sound of drums.
This well known group's inciting percussion is just the thing
to get a couple of lazy feet moving again. Similar to Farafina,
but only drums and a bit of singing. You can order either their
first, popular Percussion music from Africa, or look forward
to hearing their latest, Basikolo - Né Né.
AJA ADDY is a Ghanaian drummer, but also a Tigari priest.
On The Medicine Man he plays different rhythms for healing,
giving body and soul the natural massage that they need, (at least)
once in a while. 149.-
FARAFINA:(Bourkino Faso): The precision of these hard-hitting
drummers produces multi-dimensional dance rhythms, with a drive
that challenges you to follow it. Other instruments are a hoarse,
sometimes bluesy flute, and many sequences with 2 balafons (wooden
xylophones), whose hypnotically fast, bell-like sounds just keep
you going, on and on. Faso Denou is a definite Numen favourite.
GUEM: This North African, French-based group plays softly
rounded drums and percussion, that sound like raindrops inviting
you to dance. Their deservedly most well known recording, Best
of Percussion, is a great mover of feet and snake-like bodies,
but they move with the times, so don't miss taking a trip with
their latest, Voyage. 149.-
EARTH TRIBE RHYTHMS: Brent Lewis must be described as a groovy American. He plays on individually tuned drums, joining melody and rhythm into a pleasure-making machine that turns even the oldest bones into soft and warm bundles of gratified enjoyment. Let him turn you on too.
Earth Tribe Rhythms will always be his basic and best,
it's a beautifully well balanced, multi-track solo recording that'll
make even your speakers purr with pleasure. But he's always looking
for new challenges, so check our catalogue for his other titles,
for example Thunder Down Under, with didgeridoo accompaniment,
or his latest, Jungle Moon - Site of the Sacred Drum, where
he's accompanied by a West African drummer. 149.-
KODO: Originally members of Ondekoza, for many years now they've had their own base, and have been on an number of world tours. Check our catalogue for their many titles, or order Best of Kodo, which truly is a demonstration of the best of the Japanese drumming tradition. That is, a demonstration of the controlled, but explosive power contained within the traditional 'taiko' drums, with the huge bass drum, the 'O-daiko' taking a central place, but always surrounded by the sharper sounds of the smaller, yet no less impressively mastered drums.
Invest in a larger stereo set and hold on to your hat! 159/169.-
ONDEKOZA: Play mostly drums. Quiet passages interchange with enormous discharges of energy. There are 5 titles. Devils on Drums is most simple. Typhoon is great, Fujiyama (read the review below) is very diverse, with other Japanese instruments it's a kind of all-round introduction to Japanese classical music. But for us Kagura, and especially the varied Legend (read the review below) are probably most recommendable. 169.-
PLANET DRUM: With Mickey Hart (known as drummer
from the Grateful Dead, but also as founder and owner of Rykodisc,
one of the most inquiring and creative world music record companies).
On this record are a few of the world's best known percussionists,
people like Olatunji from West Africa, Zakir Hussain from North
India, and Airto Moreira from Brazil. They play rhythms that just
get into your system, and make you shake that thing. 169.-
CIRCLE PERCUSSION & ANUMADUTCHI: Drums of the World
is a drumming CD integrating the two great drumming traditions,
African and Japanese. A great collaboration (see the review
below) for all who are fascinated by that human mirror of the
heart, the drum. 169.-
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CIRCLE PERCUSSION & ANUMADUTCHI: 'Drums of the world'
I think that anyone interested in drums, or for that matter, in rhythm in it's broadest sense, will be able to find something of interest on this record.
This is interaction between two very different traditions - African and Japanese. And it's not just a meeting between two traditional ways of creating certain kinds of sound, resonance, timbre, but also - purely rhythmically - it's a meeting between the syncopated African way of rhythmning, with the most usually more "straight" Japanese way. (Note: to define the concept, in the words of music educator Philip Seyer, "Syncopation happens when we shift an accent from a beat that's normally strong to one that's normally weak or when we fail to provide an accent for a normally strong beat". For more, check out http://www.ilovemusic.com).
So, in this vein, even the illustrious old minimalist, "love-him-or-hate-him" Steve Reich, shows up - composition-wise, though not in person. And his somewhat interesting, but in my opinion emotionally empty structures, get filled out and complemented by the African element, so that for once the music feels not only complete, but it also becomes a stimulating experience to follow the development of his composition.
Circle Percussion is interestingly enough not a Japanese group, but a Dutch one, formed as far back as 1973 by musicians inspired by Japanese taiko-drumming groups like the now world-famous Kodo and Ondekoza groups (see my Japanese page). The group plays impressively professionally and is probably well worth hearing on its own. Anumadutchi, also based in The Netherlands, is a mixed African and Dutch group, and they seem to have done a lot of work learning to play different African and Western traditions, together with the attendant instruments. Besides playing a lot of West African djembe drums here, among many other interesting instruments they play, are the mbira from Zimbabwe and the timbila xylophone from Mozambique.
Altogether an intriguing and stimulating example of real world musical fusion.
Jack Donen - 2/99
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Dynamic drums: Right from the great O-Daiko, 2 meters in diameter, and its distant, rumbling thunder that gently but insistently massages the breast - and to the flat Shime Daiko's sharp, dancing showers of irregular rhythm.
On 'Fujiyama', Ondekoza lives up to their reputation as the great mother - or father, as you will - of modern Japanese drumming groups. This is the group whose musical power and intensity is connected - certainly for themselves at least - with their physical stamina. In fact the group always runs a 42 kilometer marathon before a concert - which by the way is said to be one of the reasons that the members of the other famous taiko-drumming group, Kodo, decided in the 1980s to get out and form their own group.
This record is a little unusual for a taiko recording, because it makes room for a couple of quite long solo sequences played by other kinds of Japanese instruments. Besides the more usual interplay on several tracks, between traditional flute and drums, there's a 6 minute track with solo shakuhachi flute. Ondekoza's guest, Seizan Matsuda plays powerfully, expressively, dynamically, and with lots of feeling - he seems to use the total register of the instrument and still more.
Likewise, there is a 6 minute track with two shamisens, a 3-stringed banjo-like instrument - played with a kind of monotonous insistency, and rhythmically flat, in my opinion.
The last number is a new 16 minute long (abbreviated!) version of an old Ondekoza composition 'Monochrome', which is also a kind of demonstration by turn, of the potentialities of each drumming instrument: its tone, resonance, volume, sound.
So, with a lot of emphasis on drumming of course, the record also gives a bit of an introduction to the world of classical Japanese music. So although it doesn't really present anything new, it's probably a good introduction for newcomers.
Jack Donen - 2/99
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Here is one of those Japanese taiko-drum records that really test - especially the bass speakers - on your stereo set.
Ondekoza was the original of the large, internationally recognised groups of taiko drummers from Japan. Founded on the Japanese island of Sado in 1969, the group went on their first international tour in 1975. Since then, they've become a well known part of the world music scene, with their traditional taiko drums, but especially the great o-daiko, which measures 1½ meters in diameter and weighs 300 kilograms.
Ondekoza split into two groups in 1981, and it's told that the reason was the dictatorial style of the leader. If possible the group had to run a marathon before each concert, or at least 15 kilometers in the morning, and 35 in the afternoon. This intensive regime became too much for some of the members, who stayed on the island when Ondekoza, with its leader and founder, Tagayasu Den, left. The ones who stayed behind took the name Kodo, and became at least as well known as Ondekoza.
The music on 'Legend' is powerful, the drums are often accompanied with intensity by a couple of flutes and a string instrument. Quiet passages alternate with enormous discharges of energy, and the o-daiko could sometimes be mistaken for the very low rolls of thunder which it most worthily mimics. The other drums play impressively synchronised displays of disciplined power.
A lavish introduction to the genre for new listeners, and once more an authoritative experience for old fans.
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NIHON DAIKO: 'The Japanese Drums'
There are said to be around 4,000 taiko drumming groups in Japan, and Nihon Daiko is probably one of the oldest. It was formed in 1975 in a large provincial fishing town called Kushiro, on Hokkaido, the northernmost of the large Japanese islands.
Interesting to this reviewer, to hear a quite different kind of taiko recording. The material is similar to that of the internationally well-known groups. They even play a Kodo composition, 'Dzauku' - 'hunter'. But in comparison to Ondekoza and Kodo, this recording is clearly more folksy, less disciplined, and in fact there seems to be a greater melodic warmth in it.
The reasons are several:
First of all the microphones appear to be placed further back, further away from the musicians, than one is used to from the recordings of the other groups. This gives a good deal less dynamics to the individual beat of the drums, than "normally", where the focus is usually closer to each instrument or group of instruments. But it also happens to give a better overall impression of the music, as a whole.
Similarly, when the bamboo flute, on many of the numbers, is given a more prominent place in the sound mix, than "normal", - it becomes a more overt partner in the musical expression of the group. And so the totality of the music, rather than the usual somewhat fascinatingly daemonic qualities of the drums alone, becomes apparent
Interesting too, is that the rhythms here have a tendency to be more syncopated. Not so clearly accented ON the strong beat. But it must be said too, that this effect is strengthened by the fact that the beat is simply not as precise, the group sections just don't hit the beat together, as in the more professional groups. Not to speak of this crazy person who keeps playing a cymbal loudly with a quite amazing lack of precision.
So what's really interesting in the end, is that even though this is clearly a less professional group than we're used to from Japan, that doesn't necessarily mean that the music is less entertaining for you and me.
Jack Donen - 2/99
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KODO: 'The Hunted - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'
KODO: 'Live at the Acropolis - Athens, Greece'
Within a very short time, Sony has put out two new releases with the Japanese taiko-drummers, the Kodo group.
Why all of two new CDs? For many fans that's an unnecessary question. Kodo has long been established as a master group in the world of Japanese drumming, perhaps rather in the world of drumming as a whole. They are masters of precision, masters of the beat, masters of a powerful sound that will always test the quality of your hi fi setup, and the patience of your neighbours.
If you've ever heard a taiko drum group live, you'll be familiar with the peculiar tingling, buzzing experience in your breast, as it vibrates sympathetically with the swinging skin of the huge 1½ meter o-daiko, not to speak of the many smaller taiko drums.
But what is special about these recordings is that neither is a regular studio recording:
The Hunted is a motion picture soundtrack, and as such, not quite what one is used to from Kodo. The film is an action adventure, about an American businessman in Japan who witnesses the murder of a certain, mysterious woman, Kirina, and is then chased by the killers. The album consists of the musical accompaniment to 15 sequences from the story.
Being a Western film, it's perhaps not surprising to find that the rhythms on this CD are somewhat more syncopated than one normally expects from Kodo. For example there's the use of cymbals and bamboo shakers on quite a few of the tracks, the high, sharp tonal effects of these instruments creating a sort of contrapuntal percussive effect, countering the deeper and heavier drums.
It's an effect that Kodo normally only uses more sparingly. Also
the 7 minute closing number sounds, in quite long passages, almost
like a jam session for jazz percussionists, each getting a chance
to do his solo. Besides this, there are a couple of very short
synthesizer sequences, dedicated to the lady Kirina. So all in
all, the album is pretty much tailored to Western ears.
With Kodo - Live at the Acropolis, we're back to mainstream Kodo. Disciplined, hard-hitting, sometimes very fast. To me the group is at its best when the individual drummers are intuitively weaving into and through each others' patterns, in a way that makes the whole group into just one living organism.
Recording Kodo's powerful drums live must have been a difficult task for the technicians, and compared to some of their previous (studio) recordings there is a slight loss of dynamics here.
Still being critical, I could have done without the last, 14 minute long number. Here the group takes up the clapping of the audience and starts a long, partly improvised session that makes more use of effects than art - constantly bringing back the clapping. The high enthusiasm of the audience at this stage seems to indicate that being there was now more important than being present.
On the positive side, as a live recording, the album is infused with a sense of excitement that's not on their other recordings. One can easily hear the voices of the artists, shouting, sometimes driving each other on, and the excitement is infectious. So, if you're at all interested in drums and percussion, you'll easily forgive these master drummers for letting down their hair and playing up to their audience for one quarter of this hour long session.
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BRENT LEWIS & PETER WOOD: 'Thunder Down Under'
Californian drummer Brent Lewis' first CD from 1990, Earth Tribe Rhythms, is something of a cult phenomenon. Alive and kicking after 5 years, still finding new fans every day, it's viewed by many of them as one of the most refreshing things around. An invitation to..... an initiation - into something new. It's a kind of alternative opportunity to tune in to Lewis' own special brand of fun-filled sound. Try a listen...
Lewis' drums can be heard on a couple of American films, among others 'J.F.K.' by Oliver Stone. After his first solo success, he recorded The Primitive Truth with several guest drummers. Since then, on Rhythm Hunter and Pulse, and now on the present album, he has joined with musicians from India, Africa, and the U.S.A., to make world music and rhythm.
Lewis plays surrounded by a set of tuned drums. He plays them often sequentially, in effect as one would a piano or vibraphone, melodically, and in a Western sense, he actually plays tunes on them. The sound is light and easy, turn up the volume loud as you like, it won't hurt your eardrums, and it'll hardly make a dent in your neighbour's sensibilities, but it will make you want to move your bones around.
The title 'Thunder Down Under' refers to the Australian didgeridoo, here played by an American neighbour of Lewis. The sound is still light and ambient, with a lot of imagery in it, putting you right into a background of Australian nature. To mix a few metaphors, there's bit of steamy jungle in the background, but basically it's a lazy, sunny afternoon on the beach, the water is warm and comfortable, the big waves are close, there's not a shark in sight.
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