The instrumental group Animus identifies the music they perform as "world fusion." Instead of striving for authenticity, the ensemble tries to incorporate a variety of ethnic musical traditions into a new artistic product that truly deserves to be called world music.
Their self-titled album Animus is an eclectic blend of contemporary and traditional musical styles from the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, with a pinch of jazz and rock. What gives this CD its artistic edge is that it consists entirely of original compositions rather than rearrangements of existing pieces. The novelty of Animus's music is further enhanced by the unorthodox instrumentation. The six-man ensemble creatively combines traditional string instruments like bouzouki and oud with saxophone and acoustic and electric guitars. Percussion is a key ingredient as well; congas, bongos, doumbek and drum sets all contribute to the band's unique sound.
The titles of the 15 compositions on Animus are either enigmatic, such as "Espinake," "Tohkhoro," "Metirorah," "Sagapo" and "Dr'or Yik'ra," or intriguing, like "Aphrodite's Kiss" and "Anza Street." Animus is not adverse to experimentation, exploring the possibilities of overlaying traditional non-Western patterns with contemporary Western musical styles. Numbers like "D'ror Yik'ra," "Funky Monkey" and "Funkimus" are all -- well, yes, very funky.
The group's percussionists get a chance to let their hair down on "Carnival," "Drum Solo" and "Anza Street." Equally animated is the flamengo-like "Metirorah." My personal favorites, however, are the blends of Eastern Mediterranean styles such as "Morning Love," "Magical Nights," "Tohkhoro" and "Teke."
I think Animus sees its musical mission as "edutainment." The group not only performs at the usually expected venues -- festivals, galleries, museums, clubs and so on -- but has also collaborated with non-Western dance instructors and music teachers in workshops, classes and campus performances. Apparently they even run a program that specifically targets children of all ages and backgrounds, bringing them together through music and dance.
In these somewhat troubled times, in which we can discern a disconcerting tendency by some to pitch cultures against each other, the artistic work of groups like Animus can contribute to stemming that tide -- by showing us that ethnic diversity provides the ingredients for creating new cultural expressions, that will enrich -- NOT endanger -- our various traditions.