Tag: audio

Review: Sacred Sounds of Santeria, by Raul Canizares

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Sacred Sounds of Santeria: Rhythms of the Orishas, by Raul Canizares
CD: Destiny Recordings, 1594770026, 60 min, 2004

This CD is a reissue of a previously issued cassette tape. It is not likely to appeal to a large audience, since it consists of songs to the orisha of Santeria (or Lucumi as it is sometimes called). There are no translations provided.

The liner notes provide a bit of background and recommendations from a Cuban high priest on who could benefit from each of the songs included in this collection.

The songs are divided into two sections – those recorded in the studio and those recorded “in the field.” The recordings, therefore, vary in quality. The studio versions have much more polish and consistency, while the field recordings are not as crisp and sharp. For all of that, the field recordings come across with a certain level of power and immediacy that the studio sessions just cannot convey.

For those who have an interest in this faith, who have never actually attended a ceremony, these songs and rhythms can begin to give a feeling for the energies involved. For those who are occasional participants in the ceremonies, these recordings can serve as a reminder between attendances.

Because these songs were recorded in Cuba, and are primarily in the language of the orisha (various African-derived dialects), they can be used as a meditation tool without distracting the conscious mind by easily understood lyrics. One can allow the sounds and rhythms to carry one along.

One word of warning may be appropriate with reference to these songs. They are designed to invoke the orisha, so they may “ride” their followers. The orisha expect to possess their followers, and even when they don’t do so, the power of their presence may be unsettling (and/or overwhelming) if you are not used to it.

This disk is a welcome addition to an all-too-small group of readily available recordings of “traditional” or “indigenous” music. There is a need to preserve these songs and rhythms, and the technology available today should make this easier to accomplish. Field recordings offer a better feel for the culture they come from.

Mr. Canizares has added a few non-Lucumi songs, also recorded in the field. These are from faiths which are related to Lucumi, and share the same sense of power. There is an instance of a song in Spanish (after all, Cubans do speak Spanish in their daily lives), but most of the songs are untranslatable to the average listener.

The CD is enjoyable on several levels – as an example of Afro-Cuban music, as a sampling of the power and majesty of Afro-Cuban religious expressions, and as background when reading material relating to the Lucumi faith (such as Mr. Canizare’s excellent Cuban Santeria). While it isn’t for everyone, it can certainly by an eye-opening experience if you allow it to be.

Review: The Best of Pagan Song, by Serpentine Music

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The Best of Pagan Song, by Serpentine Music
CD: 0247710042, 2004

My 23 year-old daughter and I have many differing opinions, and we often agree to disagree on things, but as soon as she saw this CD, she asked if she could give it a spin on her player. Looking over the play-list she cheered the inclusion of “Burning Times” (Charlie Murphy), “We Won’t Wait Any Longer” (Gwydion Pendderwen), “Christians and Pagans” (Dar Williams), and “Magick” (Gypsy). Then she started reading the liner notes and discovered that “Every Woman Born” (Ruth Barrett) was written in honor of my daughter’s Fairy Goddess Mother’s (Z. Budapest) 40th birthday. Needless to say, that made her day. [See her impressions attached to the end of my review]

The hour’s worth of music on this disc runs the gamut from irreverent to deeply moving (kind of like the spread from Discordians to family traditions). As such, it is a great metaphor for the Pagan movement in its entirety.

Although there are some songs and artists I am unfamiliar with, many of them are old favorites I have worn out copies of tapes and LPs with, and by, some of them. I have, as a result of listening to these wonderful songs revised and expanded my “wish list” of albums to add to my collection.

I have to agree with my daughter’s comments and evaluation. I must say I look forward to exploring the catalog of Serpentine Music. I am sure I will find more treasures waiting to be discovered.

Sheri’s Comments: A magnificent compilation for ritual, parties, or even a teaching tool. Old timers like me will find this a wonderful reminder of why we have come this way and why we’ve stayed. Newbies who may not be aware of our universal presence in the arts will most likely find themselves inspired to pick up the standard. All said, it’s just an incredible album. Whether you’ve been an initiate for 30 years or a student for three months, “The Best of Pagan Song” affects all that connects to the self, the Mighty Ones, and to the universal Pagan community we can all achieve if we believe in ourselves, each other, and the Lord and the Lady.

Review: Bardic Tales from the Mabinogion, by Hughin the Bard

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Bardic Tales from the Mabinogion, by Hughin the Bard
CD: Llewellyn, 1567186556, 57 minutes 16 seconds, 1997

This CD contains a bit less than an hour’s worth of music (57 minutes 16 seconds), and 16 tales ranging across the mythos of the Mabinogion. Some are light-hearted and stir joy in the heart, and others tells tales of heroes and heroic exploits.

The tone of the songs and the sound of Hughin’s voice remind me of two songsmiths I had the pleasure of listening to in the early days of my Pagan experiences in the Midwest, at pagan Spirit Gathering (and their predecessor – Midwest Pagan Gatherings)) – Jim Alan of Circle and Gwydion Pendderwen of Nemeton.

Although not acapella, the sound of the human voice is far and away the dominant impression carried throughout this recording. The instruments provide support, but do not overwhelm.

The CD is divided into two approximately equal parts – Tales of Olde Dyved and Children of Don, representing two different threads of myths. All of these songs, and many more, may be found in A Bard’s Book of Pagan Songs, by the same author (ISBN 1-567180603-3 © 1996 published by Llewellyn).

While you don’t need the book to enjoy the CD, and you don’t need the CD to enjoy the book, they do make a wonderful combination. I had owned the book for several years before acquiring the CD. It provides a wealth of music to be shared and enjoyed.

For those of us who grew up on either Irish or American flak music, this music draws us back to those days. But, even if you are unfamiliar with the content of the Mabinogion (a collection of ancient Welsh tales), even if you have never heard a bard sing the history of his people, even if you couldn’t name a single folk song, these songs will seem, somehow, familiar. The rhythms course through our veins and our lives.

To hear these tales told in song is to be drawn back in time when a visiting bard was a major event in the life of a village. There would be entertainment for a night or two, and the youngsters would heard of the glory of their ancestors, and dream of the glory they would win for themselves and their families.

This CD is no substitute for sitting down and reading the Mabinogion (there are a few translations out there). It is, however, a good inspiration. After hearing this CD you may find yourself looking around for such a translation. These versions of the tales are kept very simple. If they weren’t, this would be a multi-disk set.

I wouldn’t recommend it for ritual – vocals tend to be a distraction from invocations and magickal focus – but for an after-ritual potluck, as an introduction to a class on Welsh mythology or the magick of music, or simply to set an enjoyable mood for a Pagan gathering, it is certainly an appropriate choice. And, it is fun to listen to as well.

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