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Album Review

Madagascar's Rajery is a wizard on the valiha, a true master of the harp-like instrument, which is all the more impressive considering he can only play with one hand, the other having withered when he was young. But it hasn't stopped him — there's an airy flow to the music on Fanamby, which is an acoustic gem that mixes Malagasy high plateau music with a bit of almost everything, including jazz, in a series of instrumentals and songs. It helps that he has superb, sympathetic backing. The style of the Malagasy marovany (or box guitar), which doesn't actually appear on the album, is picked up by Toty's bass in places, notably the start of "Mainte." Mostly, however, this record is about melody, whether instrumental or vocal, gorgeously sung and played, with the kind of innate tightness to the band that can only come from lots of playing together, making it a joy to listen to. But while a simple pleasure on the surface, listen more closely and you can hear the depth of thought and the skill that go into making it all seem so easy, giving the album plenty of meat on its bones without ever resorting to the kind of flashiness so many use. Call it wonderful.


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Madagascar's Rajery (pronounced Rajer, his full name is Germain Randrianrisoa) is a Renaissance man. Not only is he a master of the valiha, the island's tubular harp, and leading his own band, he's also a founder of modern valiha orchestra and the author of a book, The Secret of the Valiha. It's a remarkable achievement for someone who had to overcome huge odds to play the instrument in the first place. Born in Analamihantona, at the age of 11 months his parents took him to a wedding ceremony. There,...
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Fanamby, Rajery
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