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Jospin Pendere-Ye
Tomboka! Tomboka! Music from Central African Republic

Asif Zaman Band
Chatorkhand Party

Both titles Antonovka Records (
Review by Bruce Miller

These two releases serve as a fantastic reminder of the kinds of ethnomusicological benevolence that’s opened up thanks to the low cost of digital field recordings as well as streaming platforms. Russia-based Antonovka records’ mission statement is simple: “We are agile and low cost ethnographic music label. If you perform traditional or similar music, then contact us.. We will do our best to visit you, record your music and release it online. This is free.” There are no physical copies of any of their recordings, though they stream via bandcamp, where digital downloads can also be purchased.

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They’ve only managed a handful of releases, but Jospin Pendere-Ye’s release is a good a place to start digging into their work as any. An ngmobi player from Central African Republic, he is as hard-driving a harpist as any to be found from Gabon to Kenya, where variants on this instrument are abundant. With a group of Aka pygmies behind him, this is stripped down, infectious stuff, full of trance-inducing grooves and call and response vocals, all at the mercy of Pendere-Ye’s relentless ngombi plucking. Videos of him can be found on YouTube as well (see below).

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The Asif Zaman Band are a trio of players representing the Kho sub-group in extreme Northern Pakistan, not far from Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. This release, recorded as the group welcomed friends into their home from nearby Hunza Valley, is raw, immediate, and personal. Zaman leads on a local long-necked lute called a sitar (not to be confused with India’s much more famous classical instrument of the same name), while Shah Zaman smacks a gas canister and another friend contributes vocals to two tracks. But this is really Asif's show, as he handles the main instrument and most of the vocals as well. The songs, mostly sung in Khowar, lope along unhurriedly, with the sitar providing a springing groove while the percussion infuses the songs with deep, metallic rumblings. One hears connections to Afghan folk music, as well as sounds made by Turkic-language speaking ethnic minority groups from Western China.

This is majestic music, and Antonovka is doing us all a favor by making it available. - Bruce Miller

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