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Percussion music from across the continents

Who would imagine that striking bamboos could produce such melodious music?

Across the Bridge
Times Music
Rs 95

Although I found this album in the jazz shelves of a record shop, the classification is not accurate. Some of the tracks here are jazz influenced by rock or by music from around the world (miscalled ``world music''), but several others fall squarely into the category of world music or at any rate completely outside jazz.

What they have in common is a strong percussive element. Thus, whether within jazz, jazz-rock, jazz-world music fusion, or world music plain and simple, percussion instruments or percussive melody instruments play a dominant role in the music.

The last three tracks, for example, are entirely played by percussive instruments. Tabuh Pengawit: Gending Truntugan (by Sentana Werdi) and Gending Langiang (by the ensemble Sekehit Gender Bharat Muni) are fine samples of Balinese music on instruments made of resonating bamboo tubes. It could be a revelation to hear bamboo tubes being so melodious while struck percussively. The first has a quiet start and builds up later. P'u Sal, by a South Korean quartet called Samulnori, is ritual shaman music, also made by percussive instruments and vocals in a chorus that sounds somewhere between singing and chanting. The percussion creates intricate rhythm patterns.

Two of the other tracks feature Trilok Gurtu, the Indian-born jazz multi-percussionist. On The other tune, he's joined by Joe Zawinul, one of the pioneers of jazz-rock, who plays keyboards and keyboard bass (i.e., the sound of a bass from a keyboard), also getting other sounds such as a guitar from his keyboard. Zawinul's use of the keyboard in versatile roles is brilliant. At one point he has two roles (bass and guitar) overdubbed together. On both tracks (the other being Transition), Gurtu seamlessly shifts between drums, tabla and other percussion instruments, the smooth blending showing why he's considered such a great jazz drummer. Gurtu is joined by the famous Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos on Transition, the track closest to pure jazz here, especially discernible in the contribution of most of the melody instruments (piano, bass and guitar).

There's a more dominant piano on Para, Joachim Kühn taking the honours with Daniel Humair on drums settling for the role of prominent accompanist. Kühn's piano pyrotechnics ensure that the percussive thread is maintained. This is another almost pure jazz track. The other tracks, all interesting, cover a spectrum of styles from jazz and jazz-rock to world music. This is an album worth investigating to study the role of percussion in music from around the world.


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