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V/A - Bush Taxi Mali: Field Recordings from Mali

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Artist: V/A

Album: Bush Taxi Mali: Field Recordings from Mali

Label: Sublime Frequencies

Review date: Sep. 15, 2004

Here’s another mesmerizing broadcast from Sublime Frequencies, this time launched from the back seat of an old beat-up bush taxi, crawling its way through the heartland’s of Mali.

Bush Taxi Mali: Field Recordings From Mali is an aural tour through this West African country, a series of audio snapshots, made by Tucker Martine during 1998 as an attempt to capture one of Africa’s greatest cultural legacies. Martine has also been responsible for documenting the sounds of broken-hearted dragonflies in Southeast Asia, which appeared on the same label.

The sleeve inlay offers excerpts of Martine’s journal to guide us armchair explorers through the mysterious sounds on offer. For instance, when he stumbles across a local wedding ceremony he writes, "I got such a kick out of the feedback and general lo-fidelity of this occasion that I had to get close enough to record it." Such enthusiasm is infectious.

Musical performances are rightly placed to the fore, with particular prominence given to a group led by the stunningly versatile and evocative voice of Jalimusa Amanita Diabate, with main accompaniment supplied by a beautiful sounding Ngoni. An African ancestor to the banjo, the Ngoni’s strings are customarily made from fishing wire which are stretched over a wooden drum. This gives the instrument its distinctive timbre, producing a continual high-pitched tone as the top string is struck by the player’s thumb.

On another occasion, we hear dozens of Dogon children taking part in festive celebrations, singing in unison and playing-up to Martine’s microphone (many of whom would not have seen such a thing before), vying with one another for its attention, before the men of the village launch into a percussive assault full of heartfelt exuberance. This is magical stuff and just one of numerous such highlights captured on Bush Taxi Mali.

By Spencer Grady

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