Nii Tagoe – African Roots (ARC Music EUCD 1981, 2006)
Shaman’s Dream – African Dream (Sounds True M1014D, 2006)
Recordings based around African percussion are a staple of many a world music diet, inspiring dancing, trancing and playing along. And now matter how modern a context African drumming is placed in, it’s
wisest to keep the primal thrill of those ancient rhythms intact.
Best known as a percussionist for Afro-Celtic fusionists Baka Beyond, Nii Tagoe is also a nimbly talented singer, dancer, choreographer, composer and teacher who plays a staggering array of percussion throughout African Roots. He’s the writer, arranger and producer of all the tracks, which range from high energy dance workouts to parabolic Afropop and multitracked traditional pieces, all with a fairly rough and unpolished sound.
Tagoe’s Baka Beyond bandmates chip in some guitar and bass but make no mistake- the percussion reigns supreme here and Tagoe is a master who doesn’t forget to add depth and fun to his impressive chops. Recommended unconditionally for all African drumming addicts.
Jason Hahn and Craig Kohland comprise Los Angeles-based duo Shaman’s Dream. They take a decidedly different approach, wrapping a variety of African percussion inside programmed beats, live and sampled African vocals and ambient backdrops.
African Dream succeeds for the most part, thanks to the organic grace of the drumming and the heartfelt spirit of guest vocalists Dido Tshibangu, Abdou Mbaye and Marcel Adjibi. The songs are expressions of prayer, blessing, rites of passage and other such sacred concerns.
Yes, it’s new agey and far from perfect (the lengthy final track is an assembly of processed field recordings that don’t add up to much of anything), but the majority of African Dream is a well-crafted piece of meditative beauty that warms the soul and stirs up a few inner rhythms.