It is HIGHLY recommended to listen to the music on this Soundcloud playlist before or while reading this blog.
In my previous electronic tribal ‘spotlight’ blog series I have covered alternative tribal, tribal trance, & the industrial tribal sub-genres. My goal is to introduce to you the many flavors that exist within the so called tribal music genre in addition to the painfully dominant tribal house genre which is basically house music with some emphasis on Latin percussion. No electronic tribal music review would be complete without mentioning a very important branch in the tribal tree & this is the downtempo tribal genre.
Often also called chillout or just chill or ambient or psybient ( the ‘psy’ taken from another electronic genre – psytrance ) or psychill or even dub. All these musical terms & descriptions usually refer to one musical style with a few common characteristics : a rather slow tempo usually between 80-110 BPM , a significant emphasis on melodic & harmonic content & a general relaxing, pleasant & atmospheric musical vibe. This kind of music is very common as lounge music, background music, yoga & meditation music or for any other ‘relaxation’ & chilling purpose as opposed to many of the upbeat, energetic & intense electronic musical genres some of which I have reviewed here before. It is important to note that many of these downtempo genres I have mentioned also exist as their own genres without any relation to tribal music. However, because of the often soft, relaxing & atmospheric character of these musical styles they fuse very naturally with many tribal\global\world music elements & make a perfect match. I need to stress again that my list is by no means complete & there are many talented artists in this genre that did not enter this list ( but might be reviewed in following blogs ).
Let’s begin our journey in this tribal downtempo spotlight with Craig Kohland a.k.a. Shamans Dream. Craig is a talented multi-percussionist, performer, DJ & music producer driven by the healing rhythm of the drum and the creative expression of the sacred. That’s already a very good reason to have him on this spotlight. Taken from the Laya Project which was a musical project dedicated to the different communities & people that have suffered from the great Tsunami back in 2004 Muliya is a very relaxing & peaceful remix by Shamans Dream using vocal samples that were recorded in the tsunami area combined with Shamans Dream beautiful drumming. Great opening for our easy going trip.
Next we move on to one of my favorites in this genre. Scott Sterling from California is Drumspyder. Combining his great talent both as a drummer & producer Drumspyder creates his unique electronic fusion with deep tribal\world\ethnic influences fused with his great drumming & production skills. Taken from his album The Principle Of Rhythm, Psychic Vampire introduces a delicate fusion of middle eastern melodies, sounds & rhythms together with EDM wobbling basses & downtempo drive. Beautiful mixture of the acoustic & electronic and a natural follow up for Shamans dream. You should definitely check my collaboration with Drumspyder. Peter & the Wolf goes tribal... I think it's an interesting project & collaboration :-)
Let’s continue our journey with another well established artist in this genre. Bluetech ( Evan Bartholomew ) has already released quite a few albums & is well known for his distinctive atmospheric ambient tribal music. Lost & Found from his album Dreaming Into Being which explores the liminal states between waking and dreaming is a great example of Bluetech’s deep ambient soundscapes. Backed up by some great acoustic drum loop pattern the whole composition creates this unique ‘liminal’ state of mind. Ethereal tribal experience.
Androcell’s Pushing Onward from his Imbue album is a natural follow up for Mr. Bluetech. Tyler Smith is demonstrating a very natural fusion of acoustic & electronic elements into one unity. The track has a great ambient & melodic ‘laid back’ vibe which is well balanced with the rhythmic parts & other ‘pushing onward’ elements. Onward to another main act in the Tribal Downtempo world.
Kalya Scintilla from Australia is definitely one of the leading artists in this genre. His sound production is superb & he has his signature electronic-tribal fusion sound. We Are Devine taken from his Eloquent Expansion album opens with a classic Egyptian Saidi rhythm on the darbuka accompanied by some electronic soundbytes & blasts. The glitchy virtuoso bass line that comes along after about 1 minute demonstrates Kalya Scintilla’s great production skills. The violin melody adds some Balkan scent to the track which together with all the other acoustic & electronic elements create a unique Scintillan amalgam.
Balkan scents, Saidi rhythms & wobbling basses mix naturally with Drumspyder’s Ice Queen. The whole track has a rather middle eastern vibe & sound. The track shifts between a middle eastern melody that sounds more Gamelan-like & an electronically-processed Zurna melody both accompanied by Drumspyder’s great drumming skills & beautiful percussion programming.
Desert Dwellers are yet another main act in downtempo-tribal world. This well established southern Californian duo that consists of Amani Friend and Treavor Moontribe is one of the most prolific downtempo acts & have released numerous full-length albums, remix projects & EP’s but it doesn’t end there. Desert Dwellers also express their creativity with their live act & unique DJ sets. I chose The Elephant’s March from their Great Mystery album which is not the most typical Desert Dwellers track but I really loved the percussion & vocal parts in this track. The track is a rather ‘upbeat’ track in comparison to other Desert Dwellers tracks. It’s dramatic opening takes us directly into the jungle with a myriad of percussion & drum sounds mixed together with jungle-like vocals, cries & shouts. Once moving into the ‘beat’ part of the track all the jungle vocals are rhythmically inter-woven into this uplifting tribal groove & create a beautiful recurring tribal chorus.
Shpongle are perhaps the most popular & well-known act in this list & one of the founders of this electronic tribal sub-genre.Shpongle are Simon Posford & Raja Ram. Simon Posford has deep roots in psytrance electronic music & he is very well known for his psy project Hallucinogen. Raja Ram is also a very dominant figure in ‘psy’ world & the founder of the seminal TIP records label. Although their music is not exclusively ‘tribal’ & it is heavily rooted in psychedelic trance they also introduce many world music influences & create their unique Shpongle language. Juggling Molecules taken from their 2013 album Museum of Consciousness is a classical Shpongle track with all the Shpongle ingredients: an atmospheric & melodic intro which gradually builds into the rhythmic part with all the classical Posford electronic soundbytes. The epic drums & percussion are probably the most ‘tribal’ element in this track.The repetitive vocal part is also very characteristic of the Shpongle sound & so is the classical guitar ( or is it just sounding classical ? ) which adds a classic & Spanish-Andalusian flavor to the track.
Speaking of Andalusian elements & influences we continue our journey with Andalusian Soul by Drumspyder. The main Oud part has a very distinctive Andalusian-Arabic sound. The track also fuses different middle eastern elements like the darbuka goblet drum & an Arab sounding flute ( Ney ? ) with a solid downtempo groove of the rhythm section.
We finish our downtempo journey with the the talented Israeli duo Shulman. Shulman was established by Yaniv Shulman & later on joined by Omri Harpaz. They produce great sounding psybient with glitch & IDM influences. The track Instability ends their 2nd album In Search Of A Meaningful Moment. It opens with a very relaxing & atmospheric intro that gradually evolves into the rhythmic part of the track. The rhythmic part has an interesting shift between odd & even time signatures which produces a shaky & unstable rhythmic ‘feel’. Later on we’re also exposed to Shulman’s characteristic glitch sounds accompanied by an Indian-style singing which adds some ethnic quality to this electronic composition. The 2nd part of the track has a very delicate balance between the atmospheric & melodic elements with the powerful rhythmic programming & glitchy soundbytes which finally dissolves back into the atmospheric void.A beautiful way to end our musical journey 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this tribal ‘spotlight’ review & I really hope I managed to introduce to you quite a few flavors of the so-called Tribal music genre & especially electronic tribal music. Next time you search Google or YouTube for ‘electronic tribal music’ just remember that there are many alternatives to tribal-house music. Most of them are far more exciting imho. In the following blogs I will be covering more ecstatic percussion instruments & instrumentalists like the Indian Dhol, the Turish Davul & many others exciting world percussion instruments. I plan to delve into odd time signatures & their use in electronic music in particular & dance music in general, I’ll be reviewing electronic artists whom I think have a significant contribution in enlarging, stretching & pushing the rhythmic envelope to its limits ( no four on the floor here…) & many other rhythmic ecstasy goodies.