Music

Wayo: Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan

Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan is a valuable ethno musicological document and the spirited and highly skilled playing and performing allows a glimpse into an otherwise rarely seen world.


Wayo

Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan

Label: Riverboat
US Release Date: 2013-10-15
UK Release Date: 2013-10-14
Amazon
iTunes

Say the word “trance” and people may think you’re referring to a style of music popular in dance clubs, represented by hypnotic, repetitious rhythms and with roots in electronica and disco. The word and the idea go back much farther than contemporary club culture, though. Trance is actually an ancient practice.

Simply defined, a trance is when a person enters into an altered state of consciousness and is not aware of what is happening around them. The person may have full motor control, but does not respond to external stimuli. It can be a calm state between sleeping and waking, or an intense state of ecstasy. Music, and particularly repeating rhythms, can induce a trance through what is called entrainment – when the body’s natural rhythms (heartbeat, breathing, and most importantly brainwave activity) sync up with the external auditory stimulus (the sound, in other words).

Music intended to induce a trance-like state through rituals and celebrations is but one part of the rich and varied musical history of the African country of Sudan. South Sudan is a new country, splitting from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil wars. With its mix of African and Arab cultures, and over 300 ethnic groups spread across the varied landscape, musical expression takes many forms. Afrobeat, reggae, hip-hop, rock and folk are all popular music forms in the capital Jubal and around the country. Traditional as well as more regional music is common as well, produced by the many cultural and ethnic groups.

The music on Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan is performed by the Zande, a group of people living predominantly in Central Africa. In the past, most Zande were animists, believing that there is no separation between the physical and spiritual worlds, and that spirits live in natural objects, plants and animals. The predominant religion practiced by the Zande now is Christianity, with some holdover traditional animistic beliefs. Music is an important part of Zande culture and goes hand in hand with religious ceremonies, as well as everyday life. The “Wayo” of this collection is not a soloist or band, but the community itself.

Now some qualifiers. Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan comes across much like a sampler collection, as five of the 11 songs clock in at under two minutes. One of them doesn’t even feature any percussion, as it’s acapella. Also, if you’re expecting slow, repetitive beats, meditative and “trance-like” music (at least as the West commonly views trance), prepare to be surprised. The music here is high energy and celebratory – it sounds more like a street party than a ritual or ceremony. It’s also rare that you get to just focus on the percussion, as each track prominently features vocals.

All that said, the playing throughout is brilliant. Many textured polyrhythms are performed on three-person xylophones, log drums, bells, and an assortment of other percussion instruments. The rhythms repeat themselves in spirals and criss-crossing patterns. It’s communal music, with instruments being passed from person to person during performance. The hollowed out log drums are especially soulful, their resonance connecting with something deep and primal.

“Koya Mo Were Baramu (Now You Are Like a European)” (the title referring to the return of displaced Zande from other countries, after civil war) is a good representative track. A cadre of xylophone and log drum players immediately launches into a complex interlocking pattern while a lead female voice sings over the top. A steady rhythm of shaken tambourine-like bells joins in. Occasional answering female and male voices enter the mix. In the last section of the song the lead woman’s voice is replaced by a male singer while the rhythms continue uninterrupted until the song dissolves in laughter at the end.

From track to track there’s a bit of sameness, due to the music being removed from its context. The listener isn’t there in the moment, seeing and experiencing the music being made, being part of the whole environment. This is an important ingredient in listening to this type of music, but of course, hard to duplicate from a mere recording. In the end, Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan is a valuable ethno musicological document and the spirited and highly skilled playing and performing allows a glimpse into an otherwise rarely seen world.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.