In 1967, only three years after Jac Holzman founded Nonesuch Records, the label issued the first records in what was to become the Explorer Series.
In 1967, only three years after Jac Holzman founded Nonesuch Records, the label issued the first records in what was to become the Explorer Series. Producer David Lewiston delivered to Nonesuch a collection of field recordings made in Bali. These tapes became the recording Music From the Morning of the World. Teresa Stern, project coordinator for Nonesuch, renamed the label's International Series the Explorer Series. Between 1967 and 1984, Nonesuch issued 92 titles on vinyl in this groundbreaking series. The albums are grouped under such geographic headings as Tibet/Kashmir, Latin America/ Caribbean, and India. Excerpts from the Explorer Series are currently floating around somewhere in the cosmos aboard the spacecraft Voyager (launched by NASA in 1977). Now, Nonesuch will release the Explorer Series in its entirety on compact disc. The first of these reissues is Africa—a collection of 13 CDs. The initial album in the Africa anthology is Ghana: High-Life and Other Popular Music (79701). Originally released in 1969 as Voices of Africa: High-Life and Other Popular Music, the album was recorded in a dancehall in Accra, Ghana, and features Saka Acquaye and his African Ensemble. High-life is a musical style that was very popular in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1960s and '70s. The combination of African and Western instrumentation with rhythmic elements of Afro-Cuban jazz, calypso, and R&B is the most pronounced feature of high-life, and the recording does a great job of capturing its exuberance. Other titles in the Africa set include The African Mbira: Music of the Shona People, Savannah Rhythms, Witchcraft and Ritual Music, and Ancient Ceremonies: Dance Music and Songs. Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Mali are among the countries represented. One of the most compelling titles in the set is Nubia: Escalay (The Water Wheel), featuring oud master Hamza El Din, whose musicianship is quite extraordinary. Nonesuch ethnomusicologists and field specialists spent well over a decade hauling their recording equipment all over the earth. They reaped a remarkable harvest of indigenous music in the process; their recordings take us to Peru, Kenya, Tibet, Trinidad, Iran, Spain, Scotland, Southern India, China, Sweden, Turkey, and Java, among other destinations. Nonesuch will continue to reissue its Explorer Series titles over the next three years. Indonesia/South Pacific is currently scheduled for a January 2003 release. The reissue project will conclude with India in February 2005.—PVV