Thursday, June 9, 2011
Exotic Hallucination of a Safari Jungle Maze: Chaino- Jungle Echoes (1959)
I've had this record for a while now, and somehow I'm afraid I've unjustly written it off as fairly standard-fare "African drum" Exotica. These types of outings can be pretty uninspired (Y'know: "just record these guys going to town on this jimbe and these bongos, white people will love it and they don't know the difference anyway"), or they can be blisteringly virtuosic, but I never really gave this one a fair shake to see what was what with it.
Well, it turns out its very good indeed, and recently it's been casting lurid campfire light on my evenings with its savage excellence. Where before it had seemed minimal to the point of boring (its mostly just hand drums and a lot of wordless vocalizations), I now find the empty spaces behind the percussion to be somehow fascinatingly pregnant, as though the sounds of the record sale off into a silence that is conspicuously not empty; the whispering echo of a listening jungle. It gives the sense of being fireside in a deep dark, when your entire reality is the limited sphere of the fire's light, and everything beyond it is just an inky void.
The drumming, by the way, is altogether grand (at least to my ears, I'm no drum major), and all the grunting, moaning, and screaming is savory Exotica gravy. This is a record to be played loud into the night. It will stave off the phantoms of the jungle, and fuel your midnight fearlessness and ritual intoxication.
Here's a transcription of the back cover literature. As you might expect, it's juicy stuff, and lays out the compelling myth of Chaino's African origins (in truth, he's just a gifted brother from Chicago).