23/10/2013 64' 46''

Music selected by Brian Shimkovitz

From different regions and in different ways, praise music in all its forms has a big impact on both the cultural economy and local music industries. In the context of many African countries, major religions from the West like Pentacostalism and Sufi Islam have been incorporated into more local, animist religious traditions. The music that results from these diffusions is often quite popular regionally and distinct-sounding to my ears.

My collection has many threads that could thematically link some of the tapes. One of the aspects I have always loved exploring, and I think it is due much more attention, is the array of gospel, spiritual and religious music of all stripes from across the continent.

From praise music from Islamic chants by Ethiopia's Oromo-speaking Sufi Muslims to syrupy Tanzanian gospel choir lilt to DIY Kenya spiritual reggae, to chart-topping mainstream Ghanaian gospel, to Ethiopian Orthodox praise music by an elderly monk playing a massive begena harp, this selection touches on many of the religious recordings that have a place in market stalls in African cities.

Praise music can extend to the patronage important to musical practice in many locales. In northern Ghana, Dagomba traditional donno drummers (talking drum) sing praise to important people in the community and supporters, as with track six, by Alhassan Ibrahim. Traditional religion plays a big role in varying degrees, both in spirituality and music-laden ceremonies.

Vodun praise singers from Benin, alongside the incredible drum ensembles accompanying their work, transform their adherents through the worlds they create in their music, as with track two by Alèkpéhanou. This selection is by no means exhaustive but I really learned a lot more about the breadth of practice, aesthetics and social agency associated with spiritual music in Africa.

Brian Shimkovitz, Summer 2013

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