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The Secret Museum of Mankind Vol I (Yazoo 7004)


Was a little late getting to these - due to finances - and, so...it’s perhaps only appropriate that I’ve also been a little late in getting around to reviewing same. But, still...here we are - and, if’n you’re yet to latch onto these beauties, then all I can say is...get thee to a shop, immediately!

Because, so-called “world music” simply doesn’t get more unique than this...

Basically, the story is the same as for the U.S. works of the same period - the initial burst of commercial recordings of vernacular musics remains purely unsurpassed on the uniqueness score, and any understanding of these musics needs to be built upon a real recognition of this fact. To be sure, in particularly isolate areas, the first recordings were made later- by folklorists - of peoples that still had never heard recorded musics. But, in the vast majority, our first real glimpses of these musics are via commercial “product” - and, we certainly shouldn’t let that undoubted fact impose some (spurious) notion of “impurity” on these marvellous results...

And, so...what do we get? Well, just to latch onto some purely ecstatic highlights: we get a droning & radically-driven Sardinian triple-pipe performance by Effisio Melis, that’d truly give the great Pan a real run for his money. We also get intensely antiphonal Sri Lankan cafe music that’d (justifiably) curdle the milk of any cow that crossed its path, and an astonishing Rumanian small group that powers through its savagely-modal song like the veritable hounds of Hell were on the collective’s trail. After this one, let me tell you, you’ll never see lust the same way again... “Maiden, what do you seek on the hill”, they ask, as the drones relentlessly drive on, and the rigorously plangent fiddle churns the dust: “A cow and a calf...and a wicked lover” comes the reply...

And this, of course, is not to mention Macedonian fiddle music that uncannily echoes hillbilly breakdowns - not at all “surprising” to one who has read the (great) Curt Sachs, perhaps...but, as a matter of fact I have - and, my jaw still dropped, I can assure you. Furthermore, we also get ecstatic falsetto & locked-groove guitar from the marvellous Zwabesho Sibisi, as well as, perhaps, the highlight here - amidst such riches - by the Imperial Household Orchestra of Japan... Near-simultaneously, an arpeggio sounds, and droning voices strike up...only to modulate, away... The pattern continually shifts - slowly - and the intensity never lets up. Beats the hell out of “God Save the Queen”, let me tell you...

Look...there’s simply no better place to start re the musics of the rest of the world than this series. Forget the modern “syntheses” that leave out the guts of the matter - and, even, the undoubtedly great artists of today, for the moment... Because, here, at times...you can truly taste the musics of peoples that had never even heard of jazz...let alone the rest of the American musics that are, inescapably, the veritable backdrop of our lives...

 

John Henry Calvinist