This is the latest installment in the massive Caribbean Voyage
series from Rounder Records, drawn from field recordings made by Alan Lomax
during a swing through the Lesser Antilles and the Eastern Caribbean in 1962. This time out, Lomax
surveys Creole music from the former French colonies of Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy, and Martinique, and while these recordings are primarily intended for historical and archival purposes, the music is frequently fascinating and will be of some interest to the casual listener. Lomax
recorded a remarkable series of African-based drum and work songs in Guadeloupe, including the odd funeral wake song "Bo! I Pati," which has a lyric that bemoans the ecological ramifications of using dynamite to kill fish. The material collected from St. Barthelemy, while it still features African percussion, shows the influence of traditional French chanson. The most striking tracks here, though, come from Martinique, including "Ti Jon," a free-style spoken piece in rapid "Banana French" delivered by Malcousu Florius
that captures the speed and cadence of modern rap, and a wonderfully bizarre piece of musica creole called "Fleur des Antilles," which blends clarinet, violin, trombone, and percussion into a close approximation of a drunken New Orleans street orchestra, and which wouldn't sound a bit out of place on a Tom Waits
record. While Lomax
's intention was scholarly more than commercial, the tracks collected here have a joyful immediacy and spontaneity that transcends their status as historical curios.