"The mask in a primitive festival is revered and experienced as a veritable apparition of the mythical being that it represents—even though everyone knows that a man made the mask and that a man is wearing it. The one wearing it, furthermore, is identified with the god during the time of the ritual of which the mask is a part. He does not merely represent the god; he is the god.”
Joseph Campbell’s works, as in this quote from Primitive Mythology: The Masks Of God, were in themselves masks, revealing universal connections between seemingly disparate and isolated rituals. Masking is a common occurrence in rites; designed deities transform the wearer into the very energy they seek to embody. As Campbell mentioned, there is no separation between the man inside the mask and the cosmic force behind it. Man himself is but a conglomerated representation of the universe; mythology is the tool for revelation. Masks are an alchemy of imagination performed in reality.
Campbell’s student, Stephen Larsen, expanded this idea in The Mythic Imagination. The book was a collection of field notes from group therapy sessions exploring individual psychology through masking. One important lesson pertained to self-awareness: through donning masks, subjects accessed unconscious or suppressed areas, bringing to surface their true nature. It is this idea we draw from while exploring the music of Canadian musician/producer Andrew McPherson, a.k.a. Eccodek.
Turned on to global music while thumbing through his mom’s vinyl collection and stumbling upon a copy of African Sanctus, a 1972 recording by the Saltarello Choir, it was the tribal mask on the record cover sticking inside McPherson’s mind. At that time he probably never guessed three decades later he would record African, Indian and Jamaican dub electronica. His second such effort, Voices Have Eyes (eccodek.com), continues where More Africa In Us left off (and then some): cascading soundscapes of warm basslines, crisp drum beats and a revolving cast of musicians gathered from an entire world’s musical traditions.
“The cover was this fascinating tribal man wearing an incredible ceremonial mask,” McPherson says from his studio in Guelph, an hour outside of Toronto. “I would stare at this thing for hours. I knew that was coming from a long way away from here. I was aware of African culture as my grandparents traveled quite a bit, and while I was growing up they would bring back trinkets, and that planted seeds. What sealed my fate was that first WOMAD record Peter Gabriel put out. There were so many interesting cultural reference points I had never heard.”
Working Gabriel’s upstart Real Worlds collection into an expanding collection that already included early Genesis, King Crimson, Ultravox and Roxy Music, as well as a broad spectrum of classical music (he’s a university-trained flautist), McPherson was exploring the synthesisization of ’80s music inside out. From the growing mainstream awareness of cheap, tinny keyboards to the warm synth pads of dub reggae, not to mention the electronic mindbending going on by Kraftwerk and Joy Division, the Canadian had plenty to chew on. It turned out, however, to be a Nigerian guitarist known for inventing a style called juju who put it all into perspective.
“I managed to see King Sunny Adé in Toronto. I was fucking mesmerized. I thought, ‘Wow, when are these guys going to stop playing?’ [laughs] I remember leaving because<