Akom: The Art Of Possession
Akom: The Art of Possession is the latest in an extraordinary series of percussion-centered releases from Village Pulse focused on various aspects of West African drum music. These CDs are extraordinary because you get village drum music as it is played, unadorned and captured in situ for its own purpose. Even more, these projects take advantage of modern and easier-to-use technology to document and make available to wider audiences the music practices that may one day vanish. Akom is the Akan word used in Ghana to talk about spirit possession and the ritualistic drum music and chants that invoke the spirits.
Frequently associated with natural features (mountains, rivers, trees, stones), these spirits and deities (abosom) abound in the region. These recordings are part of the less frequent, but publicly performed, possession dances that take place at the gatherings. Featured here is the spiritual leadership of Nana Ntiriwi, a now elderly okomto (priestess) who was first possessed at age 14 and who hosts the Yam Festival held annually at Eastertime. The selections involve dance, typically begun with call-and-response chants. However, the multi-layered rhythmic drum patterns are what stand out. The editors selected from several years of recordings (since 1993) to illustrate the "widest range of stylistic and instrumental differences" you might hear at the annual event, while featuring the emotional and spiritual peaks of the festivities. Let Akom lead you to the rest of the Village Pulse catalog, which strives to record some of the less frequently performed drumming styles of Senegal and Gambia. These styles are changing and, even in percussion-rich West Africa, at risk of fading from practice and memory. Outstanding. - Richard Dorsett
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