“Rhythmic music for African dance, Dervish rituals, and belly dance. Music for turning on accumulated energy.” — That’s what the liner notes to Anugama & Sebastiano’s Exotic Dance released on German record label Nightingale Records state boldly and clearly. For once, who am I to disagree? I boldly remember when I was a young kid firing up version 3 of Winamp — the one that introduced this new thing called “live streaming channels” — and tuning into some forgotten video channel that, for some reason, would cycle between playing Ron Fricke’s epic non-narrative docufilm “Baraka” and Godfrey Reggio’s “Koyaanisqatsi”.
I literally had no frame of reference to what I was seeing or hearing. In those heady Web 2.0 days I’d be happy to even find a way to stumble upon such stuff. If you’ve ever seen these two films you know the deal by now. Scene upon scene of gorgeously shot, day-to-day life, in known and unknown locales, get cinematographically treated to all sorts of manipulated time-lapse methods, somehow ending up on the “right” side of “New Age”. These same scenes are soundtracked, for the most part, by beat synchronized minimalist music that makes sense with whatever holistic intriguing thing is being showed at that moment. Basically, it was your nicest computer desktop wallpaper/screensaver come to life.
Viewing such things at a young age made (or aimed to make) you either: a) feel like you want to be a part of this whole stylized world or b) reflect, in the what in the hell was that? You can imagine my younger self trying to process all of this, and just ending up on this side of: I think I need to avoid taking any/all hallucinogenic drugs and just focus on doing my homework.
Forget the imagery. The unbridled experimental music played in those films was unlike anything I’ve ever heard. That’s what stuck with me the longest. I mean, Philip Glass isn’t something a kid just barely comprehending Radiohead could instinctively feel attuned to. However, meeting it in scenes of an evolving cityscape made sense. Cyclical and modern, it just felt of this current, evolving totally unlearned Earth I was dipping my toes in. I had no words to what it was, but that rolling, askew classical music in “Koyaanisqatsi” felt powerful. But as powerful as it was, it didn’t make me wonder. For that, now, I deeply remember the piece you’d hear soundtracking choice bits of “Baraka”: Anugama & Sebastiano’s “African Dance” from Exotic Dance.
“African Dance” feels primordial. Playing on Asian and African drums (and occasionally on synths), German musician Anugama (real name Werner Hagen from Köln) and little-known Sebastiano (a character truly lost to time, who even I won’t speculate where he came from) take on musical ideas far more ancient than minimalism and knock them into our modern times. Shamanistic, trance-inducing, and surprisingly ethereal, I had no words to describe what this style of music was, what it should be, or how it could come to be, but I realized that it made even more sense intrinsically than Glass’s music. This was the “music of the spheres“, both in harmony with the music of our antecedents and ancestors, and inspiration for some far flung future. Stomping your feet, making some noise, can be something more powerful than opening your mouth with no purpose.
Some well-meaning person at Discogs got it right: “Like E2-E4 by [Manuel] Göttsching, this is an outpost of ’90s chill-out/trance ambient.” Existential tribal music? Again, who am I to disagree? I won’t make it hard to find anymore, though…