Brice Wassy - Balengu Village


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Recorded in Cameroon and mixed in France, 'Balengu Village' has, in it's vocal and rhythmic textures, retained the heat and spontaneity that define so much African music "I wanted to make sure that we kept a certain amount of looseness," emphasise Brice. "In traditional music you don't count time, the tracks can last twenty five minutes. If jazz is about improvisation then myself and many other African musicians are jazz players. Improvisation is one of the most integral features of our music."
Kevin Le Genre, Now's The Time, Echoes
Mixed by Brice Wassy, Chris Lewis and Richard Edwards, Mastered by Ray Staff at Whitfield Recording Studios.


Track Listing (30 Second Samples) 


Nagra D safari

When he became divorced from B&W Loudspeakers at the end of 1996, Robert Trunz decided to invest some of his 'alimony' in a present to himself. Other successful executives might have bought themselves a yacht but, as rampant audiophile and hi-fi fetishist, Robert had always wanted to own a NAGRA tape recorder. As you will learn at, these Swiss jewelled machines enjoy a worldwide reputation and are used on the sets of most motion pictures in production today, by broadcast news organizations, and in post-production and recording studios around the world.

A 4 channel, self-contained and completely potable digital audio recorder, the NAGRA-D marks t
he beginning of a new era in digital audio recording quality. Mr Trunz purchased a matching pair and he despatched the MELT sound engineers to Africa to capture some indigenous sounds. Chris Lewis took one NAGRA-D to the Transkei, in South Africa. Richard Edwards took the other NAGRA-D to Cameroon with Brice Wassy.


Chris Lewis flew into Durban with cameraman Dick Jewell. They where supposed to meet up with Simpiwe Matole of Amampondo and travel out to the Transkei with him, but Simpiwe could not be reached. There's no electricity out there, so communications can be difficult. Following the vaguest instructions, Chris and Dick drove out to a tiny town called Tsolo, where they encountered Simpiwe at the bus stop. He was waiting for a bus to take him to Durban to meet them.

After a long and bumpy ride the travellers arrived at the village of Hlangani where they set up a recording studio in a typical dwelling, a circular mud hut with a thatched roof. They were to spend four days recording, but first Chris had to buy a couple of sheep to be ceremoniously slaughtered. As a vegetarian, he wasn't obliged to eat the meat, though.

The villagers got through crates of beer while waiting their turn to shuffle into the makeshift studio, where Chris recorded choirs of men, women and children, singing and chanting, plus special performances on mouth bow and uhadi, which the women constructed especially. Like a mouth bow, the uhadi is a bent stick strung with wire, but it has a hollowed calabash gourd halfway along its length, which works as a resonator. The women play the uhadi with the gourd resonator pressed against their breast to produce the most mellow tones.

At last, when the mud hut became too stuffy, Chris ordered everyone out into the sunshine for a final celebration. The point of this NAGRA safari was to capture this joyous, elemental music and to make it available o the wider world. Simpiwe Matole will be using some of the sounds recorded in Transkei for a couple of different tribal and electronic projects and Airto Moreira will use some later recordings, made in Durban, for his forthcoming Tribal Ethno Dance album.

Richard Edwards went with the other NAGRA-D to spend ten days with Brice Wassy in Cameroon; in Yaounde, the capital, and Balengou in mountainous West Cameroon. There, Brice fulfilled a long held ambition by recording with his uncles, who taught him to play drums. Originally there were three uncles, but 'King' Nfaleu died in September '94 and a track on Brice's new album, Shrine Dance (BW089) - Mevum (a fast 9/8 rhythm) - is dedicated to him.


The picture shows Brice Wassy (on right) directing a session in Balengou with his uncle, Moise Batkam (in white), who is also known locally as 'Mirroir de Jeune Fille'. The drummer on the left is Yaounde's finest, Makabo, and the two guys in the background, wearing matching shirts, have a band called Takam 2.

"This is a thing I have been trying to do for many years," Brice explains, "to capture traditional rhythms, but also to compose new music." The fruit of these recordings will eventually appear on Brice's next album, but first he reckons that he will have to return with the NAGRA-D for more sessions because, he says, "ten days was not long enough!"