Mac Umba
Greentrax (

mac umba It's hard to imagine a musical enterprise as seemingly ridiculous as Scotland's Mac Umba: a pipe and drum ensemble with the standard traps and basses replaced by Afro-Brazilian percussion. But, as this, their sophomore effort confirms, the absurd can be inspired. The bagpipe performances are delivered straight; vigorous unisons on highland pipes, tight harmonies on border and shuttle pipes, the complex interweavings of drums, timbales, and a wide variety of other "noisy things" in endless productive tension with the Celtic beats one expects, soon seeming second nature, inevitable. Bagpipes in Bahia? Why not?

"Mildew Mayhem"
"Gale Warning" starts ominously with distant thunder merging into a casual drum warm-up, and before you know it, the saints are marching in to the Highlands, skipping percussion driving dense unison pipes. "Asa Branca" is a bit slower, a Brazilian pop song recast as a slow air by the pipes in tight harmony, soon enlivened by percussion. "Brenda's" is the most arresting track on the recording, its introductory pipe duet on the edge of cacophony, endowing a familiar tune with unfamiliar textures. Suddenly, the beat changes into a persistent Cuban rhythm, pipes returning with a low whistle to lead the melody. It's a wondrous merging and confounding of expectations. "Dinky's" is another good-humored and expertly performed medley; the pipers alternating solos with percussion breaks before the entire ensemble joins in a long, suspenseful buildup to an anti-climactic percussion break capped by final frenzy and a march into the musical mist. There's even some Afro-Celtic dub on "Steam Train." BruHuháho is innovative, surprising, and rewarding, an Afro-Celt crossover rich with both tradition and humor. - Jim Foley

"Mildew Mayhem" composed by Andy Grant and Geri B., published Grian Music
recording copyright 1999 Greentrax

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