Muruga, James Gurley, Shakti – female vocals, Harry Ely – hammered
dulcimer – Chesky multichannel SACD 295, 63:07 ****:
The great Nigerian drummer Olatunji, who passed away in 2003, recorded
this album in 1993 and it has been remixed for surround sound.
His 1959 album Drums of Passion had introduced millions to African
drumming. Muruga Booker was one of them – a young Serb raised on
Middle Eastern music who spent two weeks just listening to Drums of
Passion. When he later suggestion the idea for Circle of Drums to
Olatunji, the drum master said yes but only if they performed as
equals and if another Nigerian drummer – Adepoju – could join them.
The variety of drumming styles and sounds is almost overwhelming.
For me it made clear how boring and monotonous most drum solos in jazz
groups really are. The various drumming approaches are joined by vocal
chants, various African string instruments and synth drones – often
achieving a trancelike world music feeling. There is a
strong spiritual quality to the drumming, as if it is accompaniment to
some sort of important ritual. The six selections are all
originals cooperatively created by the three drummers. The
opening 30 seconds of the very first track is an astounding drum demo,
with a dizzying variety of sounds, including a panning of drum sounds
from the right speaker over to the left. I think it has just
become one of my favorite test tracks – you can instantly hear if the
drums sound a bit dulled or the soundstage is compressed in
width. This is also a good source of those sub-testing
Tracks: Stepping, Incantations, Dawn, Embracement, Ascension, Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations.
– John Henry