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Three CDs by Tribal Trance: Didgin’ In The Dirt, Deep In Didge, and Minjahra

If you are tired of the plain-Jane pop and rock of the USA, try something a little more exotic like Queensland Australia’s Tribal Trance. Billing their projects as “music for the mind, body, and soul,” Tribal Trance introduces the listener to a world of exotic, rhythmic sounds focused around jungle drums, Australian didgeridoos, flutes and other wind instruments.

Fans, or rather fanatics, of Survivor (the reality TV show, not the 80s rock band) will want to pick up one of these CDs to complement the latest castaway series, which will be set in the Australian Outback.  Tribal Trance has a full website, complete with Shockwave audio samples of each CD available at http://www.tribaltrance.com.au/audioden.html.  Ordering is apparently done by e-mail through the site.

While some may try to categorize Tribal Trance as new age, it seems more aboriginal in style.  There is definitely a spiritual aspect to the group’s music, and the listener can make their own decision as to what it is.  This review looks at three Tribal Trance CDs, with three distinct flavors, Didgin’ In The Dirt, Deep In Didge, and Minjahra.


Artist: Tribal Trance
Album: Didgin’ In The Dirt
Label: Independent
Length: 9 tracks/59:26

Starting off the festivities is Didgin’ In The Dirt, the group’s 1996 indie release.  From the very first strains of the flute accompanied by didgeridoo and jungle drums, you know you’ve entered a different world. The didgeridoo’s hauting drone is complemented and contrasted by the ethereal flute riffs and keyboard pads.  The drums are inviting and not overpowering, and the whole feeling of the CD is a relaxing yet moving listening experience.  Favorite tracks were #1 “River,” #4 “Earth Song,” which will make you want to don a loincloth and boogie around a bonfire, and #7 “Afternoon Storm.”

Tribal Trance succeeded in bringing an earthy, naturistic sound to the live recording.  The band members are Aussies >Nelson Lane on wind instruments, Rodger Bradshaw on percussion and vocals, and Matt James on didgeridoo, with special guests Penny Lane, and Andrew on keyboards.

Didgin’ In The Dirt has a simpler sound than the later CDs, and purists will appreciate the all-acoustic, live “unplugged” feel.  While the newer recordings have a larger sonic scope, the intimate feel of the debut will remain as a monument to the starting point for the growth the band experienced over the years.


 

Artist: Tribal Trance
Album: Deep in Didge
Label: Independent
Length: 7 tracks/50:25

Next up is 1997’s Deep In Didge, which starts out with a poetic vocal intro and flows into a mid-tempo track called “Forest Dance” with a full complement of percussion, rounded out with guitar, tin whistle, and vocals.  Adding to the trio of the previous album, Penny Lane provides light, almost fairy-like vocals which flow in and out of the danceable rhthyms like a bubbling creek in a deep jungle.

While the band has expanded somewhat and added a few new instruments, it is still the same basic aboriginal style Tribal Trance is becoming known for.  The skilled musicians play a variety of instruments, and the licks are jazzy with a lot of movement.  The constant rhythms are sure to keep your head bobbing and your toes tapping, even if you don’t understand what the vocalists are chanting.  This is especially true of track #3 “Kunjani,” a fun, bouncing jaunt in a native tongue.

Contrasting Deep In Didge with the earlier Didgin’ In The Dirt, one can hear a more aggressive, more confident sound from Tribal Trance.  Tracks like #4 “Medicine Bear” with its growls and grunts attest to that.  The didgeridoo seems to taunt while the intense drums hammer away like horses galloping to war.  This is followed by #5 “Homecoming” which calms things back down and brings it home.

The sole “song” in the collection, complete with lyrics, is #6 “Mama’s Prayer.”  It is a somewhat funky tune that could almost pass muster for pop music, save for the fact that “Mama” is really Mother Earth.  A valiant attempt, but not quite ready for prime time.

The CD closes with the title track, “Deep In Didge” a return to the sound that best defines Tribal Trance, rhythmic aboriginal new age.


 


Artist: Tribal Trance
Album: Minjahra
Label: Independent
Length: 8 tracks/43:21

Last but certainly not least is the 1998 release Minjahra.  This CD extends and expands on Deep In Didge and crosses into new musical and rhythmic territory, exploring the outer edges of the Tribal Trance jungle of sound.  This latest offering contains the sole track out of the three albums that was not enjoyable.  #7 “Shiva” was a little too annoying with it’s mantra-like chant to be tolerable.

Minjahra is named for the daughter born to band members Penny and Matt and it opens with a rousing romp called “Jemakewa.”  Guest soloist Nick Potts joins in on electric fiddle and adds to the unique blend of didgeridoo, voices, and percussion to get the blood pumping.  New band member Rene Goetjes adds vocals and percussion to the mix.

A CD by nature lovers wouldn’t be complete without the sounds of nature, and the title track “Minjahra” provides it with a cacophony of kookaburras at the opening.  If you didn’t feel like you were in the jungle up until now, you will certainly feel it after that opening.  The remainder of the track is a slow yet moving piece, with echo-drenched guitar, haunting vocals, and the ever-present didgeridoo.

Tribal Trance is making a name for itself in Australia as well as around the world.  Combining skilled musicianship with a unique sonic style, they succeed at producing “music for the mind, body, and soul” which is both relaxing and enjoyable to listen to.

Zik Jackson 1/7/2000

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