Music from around the globe -- We pick the best from the Earthbeat! label

Africa, Vol. 1

Music from around the globe

Growing a perfect child? World music should be on your list. The music of other cultures increases a kid’s tolerance, broadens his knowledge, and helps him understand his heritage. At the least, it makes his parents feel better if they live in the suburbs of the global village.

To this end, Music for Little People started the Earthbeat! label in 1989. Earthbeat! is music from cultures around the world, packaged with the best liner notes I’ve seen.

This is interesting music, but it’s not Raffi. Children will rebel if force-fed these collections, but may undulate softly to their rhythms if exposed casually, say at dinner, over something exotic, like a turkey burger. All selections are available from Music for Little People.

* Africa, Vol. 1 The Machete Ensemble Africa’s six numbers mix conch shells and congas with electric basses and synthesizers. The result is Afro-Cuban jazz with a Latin influence. Think of Gloria Estefan singing to a rumba beat — in Swahili. ”Shadow” and ”Medicine Man” are lush instrumentals that conjure up humid jungles; ”Africa” is a gorgeous, politicized anthem that manages to mix a rumba with the French national anthem. If ”Africa” had been around when Casablanca was made, the famous ”Marseillaise” scene would be even more memorable. A

* Folk Music From Northern & Eastern Europe Nisava Nisava’s 12 numbers are Scandinavian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian in origin: All evoke vague images of women in kerchiefs. ”Graovsko” is Bulgarian, features an accordion, and made me think ”bumblebees.” ”Ludo Kopano” made me think ”bumblebees caught in screen.” ”Galaxiotissa” didn’t make me think ”girl from the town of milk and vinegar,” but that’s what it means in Greek, according to the liner notes. Impenetrable but pretty. A-

* Angel’s Draught Carrie Crompton with the Barolk Folk Here are 15 Scottish, Irish, and French jigs and dances: my ethnic roots. I hoped for visions of dead relatives as I listened to such lively numbers as ”The Road to Lisdoonvarna.” Instead, I had visions of soap: Much of Draught could be the soundtrack of an Irish Spring commercial. A-

* Okropong: Traditional Music of China Obo Addy Seven selections, some never recorded before, performed by Ghanian drummer Obo Addy, who, judging from the effusive liner notes, is evidently the Elvis of Ga music. The instrumental ”Sounds From the Woods” is relaxing, something to pack in your Lamaze bag. Ghanians play the peppier ”Oge” songs at weddings and funerals. Sample lyric: ”I am an onion, I am trouble.” Unfortunately, these lines are sung in the Ga language. B+

* Jazayer Jazayer plus Ali Jihad Racy Ten Middle Eastern melodies recorded mostly by Americans and engineered by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. I played Jazayer to an adult car- pool audience in a rush-hour snowstorm. ”Belly dancers,” they said. And ”I find this boring, but I found Ravi Shankar boring, too.” Maybe it was the snow. Or maybe Jazayer lacks charisma. But if you want to learn about the qanun (a 70-string zither), it’s your cup of goat’s milk. B-

Africa, Vol. 1
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