For this 10th volume of the World Library we go back to Africa, this time on a trip to East Africa with recordings by Hugh Tracey, perhaps the most important field collector and ethnomusicologist of African traditional music. The countries visited are Uganda, Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia), Kenya and other territories who were under British colonial rules after World War 2. The recordings offers us a glimpse of the vast musical expressions among different tribes, with many examples of instruments (xylophones, the hand-piano or Mbira (or likembe), mouth bows, lyres, flutes, gourds, zithers, etc..) and story and work songs. The quality of the recordings is superb, as Tracey was a pionneer in field recordings and used many techniques to improve sound on difficult recording conditions.
For this second volume of the World Library, we make a tour of what was called “French west Africa” and also the island of Madagascar. These recordings were made in by french explorers and ethnomusicologists between 1931 and 1950. The territories visited included (in order of appearance on the disc) the Sahara desert, Upper Volta (Burkina-Faso), Somalia, Niger, Sudan (Mali), Guinea, Madagascar, Togo, Gabon and Congo. Most of these countries were under colonial rules by the french until the 1960’s. André Schaeffner and Gilbert Rouget were both working in the musicology departement of the “Musée de l’Homme” in Paris and made many expeditions in Africa to record music of different tribes.The french filmmaker Jean Rouch contribued also many fine recordings. At a time where most people in occidental countries knew almost nothing of african tribal music and often despised it or had a reduced view about it, they made important studies to extend the knowledge and appreciation of the beauty and richness of this music. The discovery of this culture influenced many artists in France, in particular the “surealist movement”. Many poets, musicians, philosophers were deeply moved by this “primitive” world and its strange and beautiful means of expressions.
African tribal music is not only characterized by complex and powerful rhytmic systems but also by intricate vocal polyphonies. Many tribes are also influenced by muslims, both in the vocal and instrumental traditions and the music of Madagascar in particular, showed a complex set of influences by both asian, european and arabic peoples who came to the island. It’s important to say that all the tracks are only short excerpts of longer performances (some can last hours), and are connected to social or magical practices.(On the pictures below: André Schaeffner in Mali, 1931, noting the music of a Dogon drummer and with Marcel Griaule in Cameroun, 1932 with members of the Kirdi tribe)
-In addition to the recordings below, i’d like to add some 78rpm records from my collection that were recorded during an expedition in 1946 made by André Didier, Gilbert Rouget and Domnique Graisseau. Called “Mission Ogooue-Congo”, it’s the first “field recordings” made in “Pygmy” country”, in the heart of the equatorial forest, along the big Ogooue river crossing middle-Congo and all the Gabon country. Duuring this trip, three documentary films and 500 recordings of music were made. Some excerpts of this recordings were released on discs during the early fifties on the french label “La Boite à Musique”. The three discs presented here contains some fines examples of instrumental and vocal music.