Madagascar Redux

CD cover The absorbing music of this island still never ceases to grab my attention, from the full throttle pop of Tarika to the solo accordion of Regis Gizavo and the marovany of Madame Masy. Thefollowing two recordings, both made in the mid-1990's, come closer to completing an overview of the island's folk traditions.

It's particularly exciting to get another volume in the continuing adventures of Malagasy musical explorer Birger Gesthuisen, this one titled Madagascar 4: Music of the North (Feuer und Eis / [email protected]). On his 1995 outing, engineered by Bernard Ramroth, we visit the northern section of the nation in this street level recording of accordion soloists, valiha masters, some exquisite choral music and exhilarating ensembles. Setting this set apart from the previous three volumes in the series are what Gesthuisen refers to as "traces of the Orient." These are heard in some unique tracks of an Listen! instrument called kabiro, a reed instrument, and a mouth bow used in ensembles. The Muslims of Madagascar live primarily in this area, and the middle-eastern and eastern influences are to be found in a number of tracks on the album. As always, excellent historical and music notes accompany this recording, making the whole series an essential property for anyone seriously interested in the music. This completes the Feuer und Eis Madagascar series, which is now available as a boxed set called Malagasy Music Box.

Madagascar: Pays Mikea (Ocora/France, via Harmonia Mundi) looks to the south-west, to the Mikea country north of the coastal city of Toliary. The opening ringa (fighting match) song features conch, drums (a double headed one called a langoro) and whistling. This is followed by some hocketed singing (referred to as "yodelled chant" in the notes) that is especially interesting. There are a number of tracks that feature groups of kiloloky, reed whistles that are played in a round-robin fashion, each whistler supplying only one note of the melody. Box zithers (marovany), musical bows, some wonderful xylophones complete the sounds of this region. As always with a Radio France recording, these are well recorded and annotated. - CF

Here's some music from the Madagaskar 4 recording (Real Audio):
kabiro is a local oboe, played here by Jaotoly from northern Madagascar.
Troupe Abdallah shows some of the Muslim influence in this ensemble piece for voices, kabiro, percussion and accordion, "You Should Know The Meaning Of Shame."
Tracks are both traditional, used by permission of Feuer und Eis.

see also: Madagascar Recording Reviews

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