This is the fifth in a series of reissues of the seminal work of self-trained musicologist Hugh Tracey, whose work in Africa in the middle of the 20th century revolutionized the world's image of the art of African music, bringing to the non-African listener a genuine, unfiltered look at the local music of the continent. Tracey's methods were casual at times, moving the mic by hand as the performers played, finding the interesting moments, and of course, cutting off the often long ceremonial pieces in deference to the time available on his equipment.
This volume listens to the music of the people of the region held by the Belgians until independence in 1960. The CD opens with recordings of the slit drums, balafon, and raspy cylindrical ditumba drum. These are followed by songs for guitar, vocals, and percussion that are perhaps some of the most interesting examples of how a society can absorb an invader's culture and turn it to their own use. Also featured are some unique likembe (often identified with the European misnomer of "thumb piano"). Among the most unique sounds on the album are the chipeni, or singing gourds, simple open gourds that the performers sing into, creating high overtones and bass sounds not dissimilar to the jug familiar in old American string-band music. There are 23 songs in this set, each one representing overlooked or, in some cases, lost art forms. --Louis Gibson