Tarika, with its dense vocal harmonies and lively instrumentation, has come to represent nearly hegemonically the music of their home island, Madagascar. But there are many other Malagasy acts which reward attention, among them Gastafaray (pronounced much like Rastafari). Lead vocals on their sole release, "Kely Kely," are the exclusive province of R. R. Hery, whose light voice contains just a hint of rasp, and trails off alluringly from the ends of his melodic figures. Production is clear, and instrumentation is simple, dominated by guitar, the kabosy, tonally similar to a ukulele, the marovany, a box zither most commonly plucked on this recording with a scintillating effect similar to the West African kora, and a variety of tonally diverse percussion.
The most Tarika-like track on "Kely Kely" is "Matoa Tonga Aty," which starts at a crisp waltz beat with plucked marovany and harmony vocals, picking up percussion and speed into an instrumental interlude, the rhythmic emphasis continually shifting, refusing resolution, drawing the music and the listener dizzily and relentlessly forward. The trancy "Vonjeo" opens with heavy breathing serving as calm 3/4 time percussion, then evolves into a march with bowed strings behind a simple vocal melody, the breath percussion and a variety of drums joining in at the end.
"Kely Kely" shows another facet of the music of Madagascar, some familiar staccato styles, and some surprising musical fusions, all cleanly and compellingly performed. - Jim Foley
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