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World Music CD Reviews Africa

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO MADAGASCAR

By Nils Jacobson
Published June 27, 2006

World Music Network

Like many islands, Madagascar has maintained its own distinct musical culture for quite some time. Geographical separation has helped assure that the valiha (a 21-string tubular zither) and the marovany (a wooden box with a set of strings on either side) endure and continue to play a vital part in Malagasy music. But Madagascar is a huge place, home for 18 ethnic groups, and a stopping point for traffic from all parts of the Indian Ocean, so it embraces more varieties of music than you can possibly count. This collection covers the ground as well as could possibly be expected, from Jaojoby’s dizzy plugged-in salegy to Toto Mwandjani’s electro dombolo (both highly danceable), from a solo marovany recital by Monja to a “song of the old times” by Ny Sakelidalana (both folkloric). Female singers front Koezy, whose upbeat piece radiates positive energy, like the contribution by Tarika, by far the most famous of these groups outside Africa. Each of the 16 tracks has its own story, its own identity, and its own sound, and the liner notes are unusually good.