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The world's music, in a box

Global Meditation
Global Meditation
By various artists

Ellipsis Arts: 1992

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This review first appeared in the December 11, 1992 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Whoever made the decision to market and package this collection as music to meditate by dropped the ball. This is no New Age pabulum, but some of the most riveting folk music from around the world. And anyone who can meditate to "Tramin" by a trio of Gnawa drummers from Marrakesh rather than dancing like a crazed wolverine across the living room floor has a hypoactive thyroid condition.

Once you get past the dopey new age packaging (and the music is so very good that it won't take you long), you'll find this is one of the best collections of global folk music around. Although it's rather short in time (four CDs, each less than an hour long), it's breadth of vision and cultures is impressive.

The CDs are organized by themes: rhythm and percussion, harmony and interplay, melody, and songs and chants. That organization seems to work pretty well.

The recording quality varies, as some of this music was recorded years ago in rather primitive conditions.

But as both entertainment and anthropological artifact, this collection is a gem. It captures cultures which are no longer isolated nor untouched by Western civilization. The cultures represented range from a Norwegian folk chant to a Voodoo religious ceremony (and several cuts from Cuban Santeria ceremonies) to various African traditional performances (from several different traditions) to Islamic chants to medieval Christian chants to Javanese gamelan to, well, you get the picture.

Despite the religious orientation of much of what is here, this is, for the most part, a surprisingly listenable collection. The percussion CD, especially, would be welcome dance music at any social gathering. The only music that can take some real effort to appreciate is the chants.

In fact, this collection shows just how accessible many of the world's folk musics really are.