“…One of the most vital and important recording projects of the past decade.”
— The New York Times (February 13, 1972)
Nonesuch Records is launching the complete re-release of its landmark Explorer Series. The original series—issued on vinyl between 1967 and 1984—was a turning point for what later became known as “world music.” For the first time, ethnomusicologists and producers were able to go into the field and return with high quality recordings.
While a few of these recordings were reissued on compact disc over the years, this is the first time the entire series—92 recordings that have inspired generations of adventurous listeners—will be released on CD. Nonesuch will be issuing the CDs grouped by global region. The revival of the series begins on August 27, 2002 with the release of thirteen volumes of African music including the popular Drum, Chant and Instrumental Music, Witchcraft and Ritual Music, three mbira (thumb piano) recordings from the Shona people of Zimbabwe, and Hamza El Din’s The Water Wheel. A compilation CD drawing from these initial 13 recordings titled Africa: Music from the Nonesuch Explorer Series will be released on September 24, 2002.
January 2003 will see the release of ten titles from Indonesia and the South Pacific including Music from the Morning of the World, which was one of the first commercial releases of gamelan music. Subsequent releases over the next three years will group titles from Tibet/Kashmir, Latin America/Caribbean, East Asia, Central Asia, Europe, and India.
August’s thirteen African releases were originally issued between 1969 and 1983. The music comes from Ghana, Nubia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Uganda, Zaire, Kenya, and Tanzania. Western audiences heard many African instruments for the first time: the marimba of Tanzania and the dzil or Ghanian calabash-xylophone; Zimbabwe’s mbira and Burundi’s sanza, both thumb pianos; the talking drums of Niger and Burkina Faso, whose pitch is shifted through changing the tension of the drums’ membranes; and dozens of other flutes, fiddles, horns, drums, musical bows, zithers, and lutes from across the continent. Animals of Africa: Sounds of the Jungle, Plain, and Bush broke new ground by presenting the sounds made by a dozen African mammals.
The series re-issue sees these legendary titles remastered and repackaged for the new millennium, including newly designed O-card covers and the inclusion of original liner notes.
While much of what is released today as “world music” reflects the influence of many cultures, most of the recordings in the Explorer Series offer a musical window to a specific community at a specific point in time, without the strong imprint of Western society or pop music. These recordings have served as source material for much experimental and world music today, and the series itself continues to stand on its own as a unique document of musical culture.
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