Ndagga Mark Ernestus presents Jeri-Jeri :Ndagga Versions (D/SN,2013)****'
When Berlin-based Mark Ernestus first heard the rhythms of Mbalax, he was immediately hooked. He travelled to Senegal and Gambia to meet such drummers. Then he did a recording with them in a recording studio in Dakar.
The album still shows a relative compromise of talents, which at first hearing, in worse circumstances (-with good head phones on the bus-), I was still just slightly disappointed because I had just experienced a wow-effect before after having checked a videoclip on youtube noticing that this feeling of amazement didn’t last so powerful in every track as I had expected it to be. In this listening experience I also did notice more clearly how the additional musicians, especially on bass and rhythm guitar, didn’t show the same amount of improvisation and rhythmic techniques, or life-energy with its particular process of subtle adaptation, so that there also still can be noticed a small tendency from the western fusion viewpoint that at times tends to simplify the matters and make everything a bit more regular, at least in some small parts/sections.
These irregular Senegalese rhythms still remain so incredibly interesting. It reminds me how, from a very young age, having listened to classical music a lot too, I hated too much regularity, it was not until I heard pieces like “Sacre Du Printemps” from Strawinsky or “Interstellar Overdrive” from Pink Floyd that I finally found what I called a more natural irregularity. These were compositions felt more natural thanks to its well organised irregular form. Also with the Jeri-Jeri band I was reminded that such irregular progressions are really possible.
On the release itself, the irregular overdrive empowerment still didn’t always come out as much as I had expected it to take a ride with it. The western instruments and parts that are mixed in as well, with its own aspects and tendencies as well show less of this nature, even though the whole combination is mostly shared with a fine balance of result with a fine dominance of contributing ideas in the mix. The electric guitars for instance, which are from nature more dominating with their sound, could as well have taken an irregular turn and in-between (poly-rhythmic) rhythms instead of working mostly upon the more regular beat, in playing this like additional accents and with funky rhythms, this still fits well. But in that way, the regularity into the contributions are not always equal to the most creative stimulations for that particular part, for the Africans involved. Never the less, as I said before, the proportions of restriction by regularity luckily still are within acceptable range (track 7 still might be a bit long in its repetitive character, but even that is ok). Mark Ernestus foundation did chose a few more recognisable elements and tend to bring in a few lesser surprising patterns, inspired from dub and rock rhythms interests, luckily, in the final result, we still have plenty of inspirations that are combined of cross-nature influences, to feel that everything that happened here remained always interesting enough to be a successful formula in the end. Even though, when the full counter-visions might not have been entirely flourishing as I expected them to do so for the whole time, the voices of these irregular African rhythms can still be heard very well and some tracks show also much more of them even with its full potential power.
A few tracks also show beautifully melted new ideas. In the bamba track for instance, the rock instruments are even more self-assured in its own voice and in that way fuse perfectly with an extra polyrhythmic touch to renew a traditional dance rhythm style from within.
The different visions in the album are working together well, and we have enough surprise and movement for an album that shows plenty of renewal. There really is something entirely new about this that will be a pleasant confrontation and that will be an absolute surprise to any new listener.
Ndagga Mark Ernestus presents Jeri-Jeri : 800% Ndagga (SN,2013)****
Although I preferred to check out the pure instrumental version at first, after I did, I still could clearly imagine how the full band’s possibly might even be more complete with singers included, on this album they indeed show in this form a very complete, almost organic band sound. The electric bass/drums with African drumming really works fine and groovy, with great contrasts and good production, it also features some funky elements: all is perfectly in place. And even though I don’t always hear the more experimental side of the polyphonic elements dominating at any time, here they give and bring and add just perfectly what every detail needs, with the instrumentation to empower the songs. This is not just the rhythmical aspect alone, which is interesting; these rhythms also shows subtle melodic variations in it, while the songs themselves are calm and moody and are lying and performing comfortable onto the groove and its energy. The subtly added extra effects work very well too. After another track with some rolling drums, the last track is the only instrumental included, which has a strange lead bass line, which is almost singing a melody. Recommended.