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Description/Review From JumbieRecords.com:
Drummer Michael Markus's new CD, "Magbana" features the impressive ensemble of drummers and dancers he has formed over the last several years - drawing on his rich experience in dance and martial arts as well as in drumming that ranges from classical to African-American, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and West African.
The heart of Magbana's music is in its high-octane drumming based on dance rhythms from Guinea (West Africa). This CD will not work as background music at your next cocktail party, but for lovers of African drumming, and the djembe in particular, it is full of rich rewards.
Drawing on his years of performing and apprenticing with masters in Guinea, Markus has developed original compositions and arrangements that pile on polyrhythms in layers of drums - the doundoun, sangba, kenkeni, and djembe - and bells. On pieces like "Soko," "Soli-Mendiani," and "Konde/Sankranba Dundun/Demosoni 'Tutu' Kelen" you can hear this ensemble's long years of experience in their razor-tight rhythmic shifts and ecstatic solos. If you've heard this music live, it's all the more likely to raise your blood to a boil when you plug in your earbuds.
This is not just an album of drumming, however. "Forest Music/Bao" features the beautiful krin, a hollowed tree trunk with slats of varying width that produce shifting telegraphic melodies as they are struck rapidly by wooden sticks. Sylvain Leroux's haunting over-blown tabin Fulani flute playing adds rich color to "Kawa." And on "Ode to the Baga: Sorsonet," the shimmering melodies of the balafon xylophone add syncopated counterlines to the drumming as well as an extra layer of groove.
Three overdubbed tracks sacrifice the interactive immediacy of the rest of the album for a layered soundscape of guitars, synthetic vocals, percussion, and didgeridoos. It's a departure for the band and feels less fully developed.
By contrast, on "Slap, Tone, Bass," Markus plays alone and in one take, using just two hands and the three drum tones of the title to create a counterpoint of call-and-response with himself that grooves so hard and so effortlessly that you wish this track were as long as the CD's sprawling full-band pieces.
"Magbana" draws on several esteemed guests for various tracks, including M'bemba Bangoura, Laurent Camara, Famaro Dioubate and Mmah Doumbouya, Peter Fand, Brian Glashow, and Sylvan Leroux. But it is Markus and his core ensemble that hold the CD together and give it its groove.