Ouled Bambara: Portraits of Gnawa

By: Dennis Cook

In the Western World there's a strong sense of music as product, but elsewhere on the globe music serves a more day-to-day importance. Such is the case with Gnawa music, which takes religious music and infuses it with a chattering, outré kind of funkiness, and is often performed with vibrant dancing accompaniment. This seductive North African and sub-Saharan genre has rarely had a better introduction than Ouled Bambara (released October 20 on Twos & Fews/Drag City), nine perfect yet interestingly different examples of the genre (plus a captivating accompanying DVD). It doesn't take a translator to get the strong feeling and potential release of this music (though the well-written liner notes for this "symbolic language for negotiating life's disparities" offer insight). An amazing, perhaps contradictory sense of otherness and immediate familiarity permeates this anthology, which might be a touch healing on top of being a swell listen.

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[Published on: 11/4/09]

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