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Early Years: Madagascar Cassette Archives

Bongo Joe
Review by Bruce Miller

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Before Damily settled in France in 2003 he’d been a professional musician in Madagascar since the mid-1980s and started releasing cassettes locally. This compilation, which features cassette recordings he made between 1995 and 2002, captures a style of music and open air relentless performance- known as “mandriampototsy”- that guitarist Damily helped cultivate in the Southwestern city of Toliara.

At its most electric and hyper, Tsapiky, as the music was known in general and the recordings here in particular, is frantically kit-drum-driven with circular guitar lines snaking endlessly. The relationship to Congolese Soukous and Kenyan Benga are difficult not to notice in the drive, the hypnotic build, and close relationship music had with dancers’ bodies. It was also music made from whatever resources were on hand, as Tsapiky has been the sounds of modest financial means.

According to the album notes, “mandriampototsy happened seemingly continuously as a music event from March to December, allowing Damily plenty of room for developing and playing live, especially once he joined the Miriorio Orchestra in his early 20’s, where he and the band blasted Tsapiky from one hosting neighborhood to another via power generators long into the night."

While traditional Malagasy rituals continued, and other instruments, including the accordion and the valiha still brought music to many, Damily and others were involved in cranking a pulverizing yet joyful form of electric dance music to a region of Madagascar wide open to the idea of a roving musical party crafted especially for them. And in these cassettes, the music thrives relatively unproduced, and no doubt blasted out of boom boxes, as part of a culture where music is as important as breathing. - Bruce Miller

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