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David Fanshawe (b.1942, Devon), is a widely travelled and widely experienced documentary film maker, sound recordist, and composer. He saw in 'African Sanctus' a true fusion of European and African musical traditions and cultures, the work combining the traditional Latin Mass with carefully juxtaposed sounds from the North of Africa.
The opening is wholly unselfconscious - a pounding "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus" which would not be out of place in a horror movie. It thrusts the music before you and insists that you listen. What Fanshawe then delivers is a sonic montage, layering recordings of North West African tribal and urban music over the undercurrent of the Latin Mass. The Sanctus will be followed by a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in Cairo, by wedding music from Luxor, the mass being echoed by requiem, celebration, love song, lament, even the sounds of rainfall, blending human voices, natural rhythms, and different cultural traditions.
It's a direct marriage of Christian and Islamic tradition, but one which blends in references to religions and spiritual traditions which are far older than either. It's an exciting serving of music which pulsates with life and optimism.
Fanshawe would expand his original work to include the Donna Nobis Pacem ("give us peace") or 'Hymn for World Peace', a sentiment no less vital today. Frequently performed on concert halls across the world, the live 'African Sanctus' often embodies a further dimension of cultural experience by introducing dance. Listening to this recording, you can imagine the visual potential of the work.
A fine, fine recording which never ceases to raise my spirits, I would advocate buying this later, revised recording rather than the earlier one.
The work also has a touch of sadness, as Fanshawe says so many of the musicians he recorded are now dead or vanished. This is a glimpse of the old Africa before McDonalds and Kylie took over all the airwaves.
Listen and enjoy this wonderful recording.