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World Music CD Reviews World Fusion

MICHAEL SPIRO & MICHAEL WILLIAMS

By Tom Orr
Published September 23, 2005

BataMbira
BataMbira Production

Billed as “a marriage of sacred music from Cuba and Zimbabwe,” this album is a heartfelt and beautiful collaboration between two percussion masters who’ve chosen to spotlight the similarities between the roots music of two countries not previously thought of in terms of such duality. Michael Spiro and B. Michael Williams, both Americans, might initially seem unlikely representatives of Yoruba and Shona sacred tradition, but they clearly know and respect what they’re doing. The celestial sound of the plucked metal-and-wood mbira (Williams’ specialty) nestles naturally among the array of Afro-Cuban percussion employed by Spiro, including the invocational double-headed bata drum. Vocals provided by the two principals and some attuned guests likewise mix the spiritual lyricism of the two lands while flutes often seep in to provide further imploring to the orishas and added melodic wonder. There’s a meditative yet unmistakably joyful feel throughout the disc, a symbiotic strength that draws equally from Motherland and diaspora. No further written description will do justice to this stunning music—you simply must hear it for yourself.