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World Music CD Reviews Africa

MUSIC OF THE NILE

By NED HAMMAD
Published May 30, 2006

The Original African Sanctus Journey—Field Recordings By David Fanshawe
ARC Music

Composer, ethnomusicologist and record producer David Fanshawe traveled extensively between Cairo and Lake Victoria in the late ’60s/early ’70s collecting these precious recordings of folk music and ambient sounds, which he then used as source material for his celebrated choral work African Sanctus. These raw tapes are nothing short of astonishing, not only for the kaleidoscopic variety of sounds and ingenuity of players, but also for showing the degree to which music is ingrained in daily life. The bracing “Welcome Bwala Dance,” delivered by the Acholi people of Uganda, comprises deep-toned drums pounding out a 2/4 rhythm and an overlapping call-and-response vocal pattern chanted in turn by men and women. Devotional songs (the bluesy, 20-beat, Nubian vocal/percussion piece “Abu Simbel Temple Dance”; the elaborately arranged trance-chant of “Four Men On A Prayer Mat”) sit side-by-side with work songs (the two Sudanese singers of “Camel Drivers’ Songs,” which, strikingly, conforms to the Western major scale) and assorted found sounds (“Frogs”). Most affecting, though, is “Song Of Lamentation,” the mother and wife of a recently deceased young Ugandan fisherman singing and crying over his remains.