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GHANAIAN SK Kakraba is a master of the gyil, a xylophone made of 14 wooden slats played in west Africa and beyond.
It produces a buzzing timbre which, according to the press release accompanying the album, comes from “the silk walls of spiders’ egg sacs stretched across holes in the gourds.”
From the evidence found on the six instrumental tracks on Songs of Paapieye the gyil is played super-fast, as it is at the start of the nine-minute Banyere Yo, a song about a blind man who gets drunk.
Three funeral songs are included, though their rapid-fire, stop-start nature means listeners may find it difficult to discern a change in mood from Sokpa, a song that is supposed to be “happy hour music” and played to “please your soul.”
Fascinating and mesmeric if a little repetitive — to my Western ears at least — it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.
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