Chișinău, Moldova is home to Antonovka Records, whose catalog features what is likely the most thorough and mesmerizing collection of contemporary, traditional Central Asian and Eastern European musical recordings on the web. Their releases, now up to nearly one hundred, feature Georgian string players, accordion-driven sounds from Armenia, Kygyz komuz wizards, Pakistani Wakhi ensembles, Ukranian vocal groups, and Mari village fiddlers from Russia.
Aside from housing some of the most powerful music youíll ever hear, it serves as a way to educate listeners about the various endangered language groups and often marginalized people who keep this music alive. The label also houses a number of recordings from Rwanda, their only recordings not based in Eastern Europe or Central Asia aside from one other release from the Central African Republic. Whatever the reasons for this seemingly odd geographical aberration, the label houses solo inanga masters, Twa pygmy vocal-and-percussion quartets, as well as this release, by the umuduri (musical bow) and ikinyuguri (rattle) duo of Justin and Eric Iyamuremye.
Recorded in an apartment building in Kigali, the music features not only the hypnotic repetition of the bow and rattleís 1-2-3-4-5 pulse, but also their vocal harmonies, which showcase an unmistakable mournful depth so unique to Rwandan music. Tracks donít deviate much musically from one to the next, as Justinís single-string bow remains in a fixed key. However, on occasion, the rhythm shifts in emphasis, while the duoís vocals answer each other and work in unison or solo. Yet the monotony is hypnotic, immersive, and stunning, and the vocals are heartbreakingly sweet. Sophie Nzayisenga, one of the few Rwandan women to play the inanga, and who is rightfully receiving global attention (as well as also having a release on Antonovka), was partially responsible for these recordings, which do much more than merely preserve a particular style of Rwandan rural music; these recordings give listeners the opportunity to hear something as timeless as it is revolutionary. The importance of this labelís work cannot be emphasized enthusiastically enough.
Find more Antonovka recordings on Bandcamp
The Good Ones - Rwanda, You Should Be Loved
Unforgettable Night: Music of the Banyamulenge