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Various Artists: Benin: Bariba & Somba Music

Album Notes

Recorded in 1974. Includes liner notes by Simha Arom.

Benin, formerly Dahomey, is a small nation in West Africa. The Bariba and the Somba are two tribes that live there. One tries not to apply the word "primitive" to other cultures, because of its condescending connotations, but there simply is no other word to use in the case of the Bariba. What they produce (on this recording at least) is very simple and very repetitious: voice(s), a basic flute, drums. One track contains some interesting and sophisticated polyrhythmic drumwork. One track is interesting as an idea, at least, because it features trumpets using the tones of the Bariba language and thus mimicking spoken praise of the chief. The closest analogue in English might be the way one taps out "Shave and a haircut, two bits" when knocking on a door. The Somba are marginally more sophisticated in their music, but really, they are barely distinguishable. For the specialist only. ~ Kurt Keefner



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