From the minds that make up Nok Cultural Ensemble comes Njhyi, a deeply percussive album honouring traditional African music while exploring sounds of the future. The free jazz album is progressive and experimental without feeling uncomfortable or forced. A group of highly skilled musicians, Nok Cultural Ensemble, gives a taste of nearly every percussive instrument you can think of on this album, and it’s glorious.
But drums aren’t the only instruments you’ll hear on Njhyi. Expect cameos from horns and woodwinds, all atop driving tempos, many of which are kaleidoscopic in nature. And when you reach the album’s third track, “Sang Awun,” take a moment to appreciate the technical talent of the group’s members. The rhythms are fast and continuous, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think the track is nothing more than a digital loop. The improvisational bits are the only indication it wasn’t entirely manufactured by a computer.
Another peak of the album, “Enlightenment” ft Angel Bat Dawid again highlights the group’s supreme musicality by introducing us to a new drum type. It seems as though playing one type of drum should translate into easily playing all of them, but in reality, it takes a special talent to do so effortlessly. Each drum has a unique way of being played, and Nok Cultural Ensemble proves they know how best to incorporate the entire percussion section into their work.
Njhyi is now the standard for creating new and interesting music while still honouring the traditions of your heritage. It manages to input a wide variety of seemingly random sounds without being chaotic. Even better – it’s cohesive.
A clear thematic vision, a homage to ancestors, and a strong percussion line make very good music.