Tulear Never Sleeps - Malagache guitars
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Various Malagasy Artists
Tulear Never Sleeps
Earthworks/Stern's Music

cd cover Popular world music doesn't get much more exotic than that of Madagascar, whose valiha (native tube shaped zither) and east coast guitar traditions have been available in the West for a couple of decades.

This CD documents music that is exotic for even the Malagasy, tsapiky (with a silent "y") from the coastal city of Toliary (pronounced "Tulear") located in the arid southwest of the island nation. Eight of the top local groups are featured, performing current hits, all at frantic tempos and all immanently danceable. While elements of this music are heard in urban Madagascar, this is the first time that the local roots variations have been heard outside Toliary.

The reverb-drenched, finger picked electric guitars strongly resemble South and West African pop guitar styles in timbre and note patterns, but with distinctive, local twists.

The instrumentation appears to be only guitars, drums and occasional wigged-out, busy and prominent electric bass. I hear no hand drums and the home-made trap set patterns are definitely Malagasy.

Harmonized female choruses intersperse and overlap the hypnotic guitar riffs, but the latter are almost always on center stage. Two cuts highlight the native acoustic guitar-like mandoliny (a descendant of Arab lutes) that sounds like the Caribbean cuatro. Cool stuff! - Stacy Phillips

CD available from cdRoots

Further reading: Ian Anderson's essay on Malagasy guitars from fRoots Magazine

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