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Album Review

At the Court of the Mwami – Ruanda [SWP Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Back in 1999, Andy Moor of the Ex turned me on to this
label, we did an on-air special on it and interviewed
Michael Baird back in Holland…Michael was born in
Zambia, and through luck and labor had obtained access
to the International Library of African Music which was
founded and largely stocked by Hugh Tracey. Hugh traced
almost all of Africa and did so over 50 years ago, he
returned with recordings that are unbelievably pristine.
You can hear his voice on the throw-away first track,
then a dry flood of drums. Pretty amazing dropping in
and out of beat. Listen to #5, that’s no simple rhythm.
Vocal pieces are even more fulfilling for me, often
a chorus gets a wobbly drone to it (recall Tenores di
Bitti esp #19, one thought is that the Tutsi’s largely
featured here did come down from Ethiopia, hmmm?). Men
and women both are recorded by the way, though I’m not
sure if ever together. #15 has a musical bow, like the
berimbau or kalimboo or whatever the Gnawa Hawa play,
it jabs a song along so well! Drums return towards the
end, this time with Hutu’s doing the honor.

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