“Ketjak: The Ramayana Monkey Chant” (excerpt), from Golden Rain, Nonesuch H-72028.
This consists of many men doing a rhythmic, fairly static, chant, while one or two other men sing what sounds like improvised melodies behind them. The unusual thing about this piece is that what would commonly be thought of as the backing part, the rhythmic chanting, is much louder than what would be commonly thought of as the main part, the improvised singing.
It’s easy to dismiss this piece as just some annoying, repetitive chanting, unless you listen closely and hear the sort of improvised wailing that is going on by one or two (or, maybe, three) men in the background. This wailing, or singing, is pretty impossible to describe except to say that it sounds maybe what demented cousins of Little Richard, Sam Cooke, and Solomon Burke wailing away in the psych ward after drinking a little too much (but not way too much) cheap, red wine (smuggled in by a sympathetic trusty) might sound like. And I mean that as a compliment. It’s cool.
Buy the record here.
(This was originally published on my leipzig48.com “Dancing about Architecture” blog in 2006.)