Sola Akingbola – Routes To Roots: Yoruba Drums From Nigeria (ARC Music EUCD 2114, 2007)
Will Clipman – Pathfinder (Canyon Records CR-7075, 2007)
Many people, even open-minded world music fans, don’t consider drums and percussion to be very musical on their own. Me, I’ve always been fond of albums that feature percussion as the dominant (or even sole) type of instrumentation. A good percussion album needs a wide variety of sounds, rhythms and textures, and these two very fine releases by players best known as sidemen both have the stuff.Sola Akingbola has been seasoning the sound of UK jazz/funk band Jamiroquai for a long time, but it’s the drumming traditions of his native land that stir the pot on Routes To Roots: Yoruba Drums From Nigeria. An intricate mesh of talking drums, bata, sakara and small percussion builds or arrives full throttle on each track, often accompanied by vocals (in praise of the Orisha pantheon) and always providing polyrhythmic thrills that are never too busy or cluttered. A lot of this is rooted in the apala music of Nigeria’s Muslim communities while some of the smoother passages are only a couple of guitars away from being juju. Still, the sounds here have their own sort of sophistication, with the interplay between the individual instruments constructing elaborate workouts that will thrill both percussion lovers and fans of African music cut to the core.
Jamiroquai can continue to be Akingbola’s primary bread and butter so long as he also takes the occasional break to make discs as good as this.
A more atmospheric, meditative approach is taken by Arizona-based Will Clipman, who’s long been the in-house percussionist for Canyon Records, a label specializing in Native American music. Clipman’s work with flutists R. Carlos Nakai and Robert Tree Cody, guitarist/luthier William Eaton, singer Sharon Burch and many others has enabled him to utilize a sizable arsenal of global percussion. He puts his skills to good use on Pathfinder as the feel of his multi-tracked pieces conjure up images of African villages, endless desert landscapes, peaceful waters and many points in between.
Tempering the underlying percussive pulse with the melodic sounds of slit drum, ocarina, chanting, whistles and Tibetan bowls, Clipman’s rustic but refined artistry can make you dance like a person possessed as well as sit back and let the more balm-like tracks permeate. After savoring Clipman’s supporting work on numerous Canyon releases over the years, this solo work of his proves inventive, highly enjoyable and most welcome.