gullbuy music review

Voodoo Drums


Voodoo Drums


Soul Jazz Records

various artists CD

Voodoo DrumsI think I can rightly say, that as people, we are fairly obsessed with rhythms. Whether it be from the deepest parts of Africa or the most modern German drum machines, we manufacture it, we manipulate it, classify it, and downright obsess over it. Thanks to the weekly Gullbuy, we can obsess over these rhythms in all its many forms.

This week, in reviewing Voodoo Drums on the Soul Jazz Records label, I looked up voodoo and Haiti on the web and found out some interesting things. Voodoo, which also means "lakou," originally surfaced in Nigeria as an African faith which set out to protect man from everyday life: rival enemies, bad weather, wild animals, all the while preserving a healthy body and soul. In its essence as a socio- economic unit of African communalism, it eventually moved to the Americas as a way to unify the slaves into the West's first black revolution.

Fundamentally, it is an instinctive magic, as it relates man to the essentials in life in the manifestation of the spirit world through the channel of a human being. Entering a trance-like state of excitement and receiving the spirits, the person is induced through the rhythm of dance, chanting and drums, and most especially the voodoo drum tamboula. Once in a trance, the participant will not only be in touch with the spirits, but also his own unconscious.

As it turns out, nearly 2/3 of the Haiti population practices Voodoo. Celebrating this African- derived communalism is an act of treason to the government, and as the pulsating voodoo drum beats send dancers spinning into intense states of possession, the altered states they exhibit bring them strength and endurance beyond normal capacity: they are oblivious to what they are doing and who they are. The "lakou," through Voodoo, becomes uncontrollable by the government, and by doing so bring the people power.

The Drummers of the Societe Absolument Guinin were recorded in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, creating this incredibly rhythmic musical diaspora. Where most tribal drumming albums tend to either be hissy field recordings or high fidelity nightmares (adding studio echo or other such nonsense), Soul Jazz Records get it right on Voodoo Drums by miking the drums up close and perfect. It sounds like the drums are pounding, percolating right in your eardrum.

Each track (19 in all) is between 1:30 and 3:00 minutes, intricately conceived, with melodic yet off- kilter beats and a seemingly endless variety of rhythm, which all combine into a trance-like rhythm. Each track is intense in its representation of individual spirits and this disc truly proves that Voodoo is alive and still thriving.

Along with other crucial pieces of the puzzle, including the Oneness of Juju (added in October to the Gullbuy) and Nigeria 70 (added just last week in the Gullbuy) on AfroStrut, the Voodoo Drums cd help educate us on African-derived rhythms. And just as DJ Pica Pica Pica combined modern music and primitive rhythms on 'Planetary Natural Love Gas Webbin' 199999' (added in Feb to the Gullbuy) by sampling from "Water Drums" (originally on the Rykodisc CD "Heart of the Forest"'s track with Baka Forest people splashing water in rhythm), here's hoping the Voodoo rhythms found on this disc make its way into our modern life - in more ways than just this one.

---Patrick, December 18, 2001