Artist and cultural consultant
Mamadou Ly (wearing headphones)
with producer Carl Holm (in cap)
at a Village Pulse recording session
in the Gambia.
Carl Holm and I founded Village Pulse in 1991 to produce recordings of musical traditions we felt deserved more attention. To date, we have focused on styles of West African drum music that have been largely unavailable to the outside world.
We first thought of starting a record label because we were frustrated by the lack of recordings of Mandinka drum music. We had been studying Mandinka drumming for several years in the United States, but it was only when we went to Senegal and the Gambia to continue our studies that we heard what the music is really supposed to sound like. The idea for starting a label gained momentum when our travels in those countries revealed other musical traditions we never knew existed.
Wolof say a drum without
palm oil is like fish and rice
without salt. Thione Diop, son
of Wolof sabar drummer Mapathé
Diop, oils drum shells near Dakar.
Shown here in 1990, Thione is
now himself a master drummer.
We returned to West Africa, backpacks loaded with digital recording equipment, and heads full of crash training from audio-engineer friends (notably Rick Chinn and Rob Holland). Using contacts we made through our drumming instructors, we were able to record highly respected artists, each playing their people's traditional music. From the outset, we've worked to see the artists benefit from their recordings.
Further travel to record music in West Africa has given us a sense of urgency for our mission. Traditional music still thrives in Africa, but we can see it changing in response to rapid social change and the influx of Western music. We hope Village Pulse recordings will help strengthen these peoples' traditions and provide a lasting record of their cultures.
Carl Holm/Mamadou Ly photo ©1994 Betty Press
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