Album of the day: "The Real Bahamas"

Album of the day: “The Real Bahamas”

Various Artists
The Real Bahamas (2 CD Nonesuch Explorer 79300-2)

Forget about still being stuck in the unpleasant February weather by listening to these recordings made in 1965 in the Bahamas by researchers Peter K. Siegel and Jody Stecher; However, don’t expect any type of cheap exoticism, perhaps seasoned with Caribbean sauce to make it easier to hit the dance floors. The music contained here is predominantly acoustic, sparse, entrusted to the voices of local musicians such as Joseph Spence, Edith Pinder and Clifton Green.

Recorded in their home with excellent playback quality, the music saw an increasing number of people join the two main artists as word spread around the neighborhood of these curious characters who had come to record the island’s popular music, especially the so-called «rhyming spirituals». We move from solo pieces to complex choral performances in
where the African influence of the rhythmic interaction between Suns and Everyones becomes more and more pronounced.

The Bahamas are a few hundred miles from the coast of Florida, so it is clear when listening to how the influence of African-American music, in particular blues and gospel, on the inhabitants was no less than that of the Caribbean (while there is no trace of that of their British colonizers).

The expressive capacity of these singers is incredible, it draws directly from the well of an ancient popular conscience
centuries, re-proposing it with touching sincerity and vocal ability that has nothing to envy of professional performers.

The so-called «Rhyming Style» was developed in a particular way by the sponge fishermen who lived on the island and consists of
in a main vocal line continuously varied with ornamentation; this is contrasted with more repetitive choruses which progressively grow in intensity during the development of the piece, supported by a bass line whose timbre resembles that found in traditional Sardinian music.

Not unlike certain sermons sung in Harlem churches, the voices intertwine and overlap with incandescent intensity often achieving an effect of authentic catharsis and making listening to this album an unforgettable experience.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.