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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Various Artists

By Tom Orr
Published February 15, 2006

ARC Music

Think of the music of South Africa and you're more likely to think about township jive or Mbaqanga than drums and chanting. It's been a few centuries since the Venda tribe, migrants from what is now Zimbabwe, settled in the area that is presently South Africa's Northern Province and brought their weaponry, village traditions and music with them. Venda drumming has an especially deep, foundational quality, mainly due to the insistent booming of the sacred "big drum," which wouldn't sound out of place at a Native American powwow. The big drum and numerous smaller ones drive and punctuate these songs of the Venda worldview, concerns genuine and whimsical, and matters of the spirit. A discernible Arabic edge to the drumming and singing results from the Vendas’ coexistence with the Lemba, descendants of North African traders, and bolsters the mystic quality drums are believed to possess in Venda culture. Let this simple but powerful music work its mysticism into you.