various artists,
Music of the Nile:
The Original African Sanctus Journey

(ARC, 2003)

In the late 1960s and early '70s, English folklorist David Fanshawe traveled up the Nile to record the sounds of the people and places along the river that was one of the birthplaces of human civilization.

The sounds collected by Fanshawe on this trip included not just the folk music of the various Nilotic peoples he visited, from Egypt through Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. While he focused on the folk music, he also recorded background sounds such as frogs, waterfalls and a passing steamer.

Fanshawe originally incorporated many of those recorded music and other sounds in a choral work he called "African Sanctus." This new CD allows us to hear the field recordings in their natural setting. The result, a 37-track recording, is a fascinating, unadorned audio tour of the many cultures along the Nile.

From the opening Bwala dance of welcome from Uganda, the recordings invite us to look into a world that may, in some cases, be vanishing. We have wedding songs, a camel herder's chant, a man's lament for the loss of his son, a muezzin's call to prayer, a boat that turns into a xylophone, a rain song and many other special moments on this journey through time.

But this CD gives us more that just ethnology: it is great music. The rhythms are superb and infectious, the voices are clear and strong. The recording quality is excellent. The liner notes are informative and colourful (French and German translations are included, too) and explain not only the songs but the circumstances of the recording. At almost 80 minutes it is excellent value.

All in all, this is a superb package for anyone who is at all interested in the music of this fascinating region.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 27 September 2003

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