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REVIEWS of Master Drummers of Dagbon

Pharoah S. Wail
Rom Wynn
Brian Olewnick
Transcental Sound blogspot

Reviews by Pharoah S. Wail (Inner Space) on Amazon

Master Drummers of Dagbon, volume 2
5.0 out of 5 stars on June 1, 2001

The cd that started it all (for me)

This was the very first African cd I ever bought.  I don't remember what grade I was in but I know I was in highschool so it's probably been about 10 years ago that I bought it.  This cd deserves to be reviewed.

The thing that continues to really get me about this album is that if you just give it a lazy listen you will miss what is actually going on with this music.  Some of the songs have an overall contour that may seem like constant repetition if you aren't really paying attention.  However, if you are actually listening to it (and not just playing it in the background as you do other things) there is a world of overlapping rhythmic complexity changing and turning inside all of these songs.  These drums also have unique tones.  A rubberyness.  A really tight bounce I love.  Also, it just struck me that all this time I forgot about Volume One! I don't have that one but I'll have to correct that situation soon.

This is really an incredible cd to listen to outside at night.  I've listened to it while sitting around a campfire by a river at night before and it was a really beautiful experience.  Sitting still would be quite a feat during this cd.  This is really a great example of one of the communal dance musics for which West Africa is known.  This cd may almost make you wish you knew all your neighbors and could all come together and dance together to some of the many rhythms of life.  I really feel lucky that I decided to take a chance on this recording when I stumbled upon it way back when.  It really jump-started an entire world of interest in Indigenous African musics for me, and even now that I am much more knowledgeable than I was then it still holds up as a classic recording.

Master Drummers of Dagbon, volume 1

5.0 out of 5 stars  on April 30, 2003

Just as fantastic as Volume 2!
I have had Master Drummers Of Dagbon Volume 2 for ten years or so, and Volume 1 for far shorter a time.  This lapse in judgement was due to nothing more than some sort of brain-cramp.  Had I had any sense, I would have made sure to get this disc, Volume 1, right after I bought Volume 2.

If you have Volume 2 then this cd is more of the same, just different.  The same inspired playing, excellent recording quality, great spirit and it gives off a real feel for the culture and people from whom this music was spawned.  It's different just in that it's different songs, different beats and rhythms, etc...  Both discs are fantastic documents of this regional drumming style.

In a perfect world (with a modern cd-buying public that places more value on the spiritual and artistic contributions of other cultures) this music would have been able to generate enough interest to be released just as one excellent 2-disc set, but being that that's not the world we live in, this music had to be split into 2 discs.

No matter.  It's a small price to pay for music as perfect as this.  I feel that I wrote a pretty complete and satisfying review of Volume 2.  My review of Volume 2 could be interchangeable with a review of Volume 1, if you'd like to read that as well.

If you have one of these, get the other. If you have none, get either or. Although my ultimate advice would be for you to get this, Volume 2, and also the excellent Master Fiddlers Of Dagbon cd.  I just absolutely love all three of these discs!!  The only flaw in this little series of Masters Of Dagbon discs is that there aren't 10 discs.  Hopefully there will be more to come.

Review by Ron Wynn

Master Drummers of Dagbon, volume 2

Another 16 performances by the Master Drummers of Dagbon troupe from Northern Ghana. Once more, the ensemble turns their drumming into a hypnotic, enchanting rhythm ceremony, creating waves of shimmering, exploding beats, accents and patterns. What's so impressive about the Master Drummers, besides their obvious abilities, is the way melodic and harmonic developments emerge from what seems like an obsession with rhythm. Their seamless lines, rippling phrases and non-stop propulsive energy key these songs, which are tied to traditional dances, celebrations and expressions of worship and joy.

Review by Brian Olewnick

The Dagbamba are a culture in northern Ghana, an area known for its long and rich history of percussion ensembles whose influence (aside from underlying much jazz and rock) has spread into the contemporary classical field through study by composers like Steve Reich. This recording by author and musical historian John Miller Chernoff assembles a large number of local musicians under the direction of Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulai, who leads them through a kind of sampler of various rhythms and dances common to the culture. The result is raw, complex, and invigorating with none of the gloss or pandering quality that infects many so-called "world music" productions. The drums contain multitudes of elastic rhythms and pitches, the latter effected by the use of "talking drums," dual-headed instruments with cords stretched between the playing surfaces whose tension can be controlled by pressure from the player's arms. Though punctuated by occasional vocal exhortations, this is pure drumming music. Any listener interested in investigating the source of much of the rhythmic basis for contemporary Western music owes it to themselves to hear the percussion music of West Africa, and this recording is a fine place to start.

Review by Transcendental Sound blogspot

Following on my previous post of the Explorer Series Ancient Ceremonies: Dance Music & Songs of Ghana, I present Master Drummers of Dagbon. Maintaining our geographical location, this disc similaraly presents a portion of the musical heritage of Ghana. This time Rounder presents recordings by the ethnomusicologist John Miller Chernoff of the Dagbamba of northern Ghana.

This disc keeps a narrower focus than the Nonesuch CD allowing for a more detailed look at the many drumming styles of the region. The emphasis of the recordings themselves stick to that of the drum ensemble itself, though often accompanied by singing. The liner notes written by Chernoff provide information that keeps it eye on the contextual cultural environment that this music exists in. As well as providing specific information of each particular track. Though none of these recordings were made during the specific ceremonies they manage to capture the atmosphere of each performance, free of the local ambient and social noise which often accompanies such discs. A great recording for those interested in the diverse abilities of the drumming of Dagbon.