Monday, October 17, 2016

The Rhythmatist (1985), by Stewart Copeland

CD Retro Fan Review

I can listen to “Africa” by Toto and Graceland by Paul Simon without thinking of Africa. When I listen to The Rhythmatist by Police founder and drummer Stewart Copeland, I can’t help but think of nothing but Africa.

After beginning his prolific motion picture and television composing career with Rumble Fish, Copeland (The Equalizer, Wall Street, Rapa Nui) really hit it out of the park with The Rhythmatist, his score to the docudrama of the same name.

For this unique project, Copeland recorded the traditional chants and rallying cries of various indigenous tribes, as well as the noises of birds, bees, and numerous other beasts roaming the “dark” continent.

Over these native sounds, Copeland lays down guitars, bass, keyboards, and synthesizers (all played by himself), and especially his signature drums, percussion, and hi-hat.

The result is a colorful blend of exotic pop/rock instrumentals and songs featuring African lyrics and vocals by Ray Lema, plus symphonic, cinematic themes that convey the epic grandness of the vast African landscape. Copeland also talks and kind of sings on “Serengeti Long Walk” and the Copeland-Lema duet “African Dream,” giving both tracks the feel of cheeky but highly informative and immersive audio travelogues.

Obviously due to my interest in The Police, this was my first real introduction to world music, and what Stewart Copeland accomplished here remains as potent and impactful an intercultural force as when I heard it initially upon its release way back in 1985.

--Raj Manoharan

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