April 13, 2007

Drums Of Death

Death_Drums.jpgWhile we’re in Ghana, and on the subject of funeral music, here’s a far more unreconstructed traditional response to the passing of a loved one from the Ashante people of central Ghana.

I originally bought this album, back in 1997, solely on the basis of its title, Drums of Death. (Who, after all, could resist a title like that?…) Coming from the West where funerals are designed to contain and solemnise grief, I naturally expected something sombre and ponderous. What I got instead was a torrent of pounding cathartic polyrhythms that completely floored me. This was not some muted observance of a burial; this was a raucous, full-blooded celebration of a journey to another realm. To paraphrase the liner notes, death in Ashante culture marks the passing of the deceased into the company of the ancestors who the living “rely upon for advice, comfort and guidance… And so with every death, there is a party, and the family, tribe and other celebrants drum, dance, sing and socialize.”

The CD, which was produced by John Zorn, is out of print, but you can still find copies on Amazon, and I urge you to snap one up. If you need any convincing, listen to this mp3 of the third track on the album, Adva Part 1.

Posted by Warren at April 13, 2007 11:16 PM | World