Abatwa – Why Did We Stop Growing Tall? (4 stars)

Abatwa – Why Did We Stop Growing Tall?

The remarkable music of the Abatwa people of Rwanda

The fourth entry in Glitterbeat's excellent Hidden Musics series documents the music of Rwanda's marginalised Abatwa ('pygmy') people.

There's some wonderful material played on traditional instruments, not least the beautiful 'Ihorere (Stop Crying Now)', where husband and wife duo Emmanuel Habumuremy and Ange Kamagaju sing modal counter-melodies over resonant plucks of the 11-string icyembe harp, but it's the electronic tracks which are particularly startling. 'Umwana W'umuhanda (The Child From The Streets)', by 19-year-old rapper Rosine Nyiramfumukoye is an absolute mind-melter, as she spits her nimble rhymes in a tough, slightly sing-song voice over syncopated electronic crackles. Then there's 'Sida Ni Mibi (AIDS is Bad)', where Christoph Ntabanganyimana and Bihoyiki Dathive chatter intensely against fuzzy glitch loops.

The Abatwa musicians' secret weapon is the Stylophone Beatbox, a battery-operated synth/drum machine/looper from which they coax inspired DIY beats and noise. Remarkable music, from ancient to future.

Out now on Glitterbeat.

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