Album Review

Wallahi Le Zein [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

aarbor   3/16/2022   12-inch, International

Mauritania is in Northwest Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Algeria, Mali, and Senegal. It is one of the least densely populated countries on Earth. The Moors, who call themselves the Beydane, trace their ancestry back to the region’s original Berber inhabitants and to the nomadic warriors from the Arabian Peninsula. The Beydane are patrons to griot families called the iggawen who jealously protect and preserve their specialized skills and knowledge. Today this patronage system has changed and musicians are known as Vennane. They can be invited to play for an event (e.g. a wedding, or an evening at someone’s home) and paid. There is no music industry, in Mauritania. Music is very informal, participative, and difficult to record effectively. Most of the recordings don’t capture the multi-sensory experience of the music, the sensuality of the dancers, the extravagant behavior of the percussionists, the body heat generated by 50 people packed into a small room, the conversation, or the mint tea. The recordings on this record are probably the best available. The performances involve considerable improvisation and the quality of any given performance is largely determined by the dynamics of the event. A Beydane performance is like a pick-up basketball game. The sound: jackhammer riffs that stop abruptly, waves of blistering guitar runs, pushing against thundering drums, then mysteriously fizzle out, only to dramatically resurge, spurred on by enthusiastic shouting. Form? structure? the music ebbs and flows with dramatic spikes of intensity. AArbor

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