Groupe RTD Crafts Strong Debut Despite Limitations

Courtesy: Ostinato Records

Late this past April, international music collective Groupe RTD released its debut album The Dancing Devils of Djibouti through Ostinato Records.  The 10-song record is a presentation that world music fans will agree is worth hearing at least once.  That is due in part to its musical arrangements.  The production put into the 48-minute album adds its own touch to the presentation here.  It will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of The Dancing Devils of Djibouti.  All things considered, they make the record one more candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new World Music albums.

Groupe RTD’s debut album The Dancing Devils of Djibouti is an interesting presentation that World Music fans will agree is well worth hearing.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question exhibit influence from the collective’s own nation just as well as some very clear Western influence.  The Western influence is audible throughout in the vintage jazz and funk style approaches to the arrangements.  What is really interesting to note within those Western style arrangements is the way in which the group’s own African elements are incorporated alongside even some tropical influences..  From the vocal delivery style to specific ways in which the notes progressed and sounded within the bigger picture of the arrangements.  The sounds that resulted within those pictures displayed a sound that was distinctly influenced by the music of the group’s home land.  The way in which those influences were balanced throughout the course of the record makes the experience of hearing the arrangements that much more engaging and entertaining.  That is even taking into account the lack of English translated lyrics for the record (It should be pointed out here that this critic even reached out to officials as Ostinato Records for English translated lyrics for the record.  The noted officials stated they did not have English translated lyrics).  If English translated lyrics were available to consider along with the already engaging and entertaining musical arrangements, that would have made the arrangements (and album in whole) that much more interesting for listeners.  Regardless, the arrangements themselves do their own share to keep listeners’ engaged and entertained.  The production put into the record’s featured arrangements works with the arrangements themselves to cement the record’s appeal even more.

While the musical arrangements featured in Groupe RTD’s record are in themselves plenty of reason for audiences to take in this record, the production that went into the album’s presentation adds even more appeal to its whole.  According to information provided about the album, the collective recorded the album in all of three days on a mobile recording studio.  That is due to limitations put in place by Djibouti’s national radio authorities.  Research into this matter revealed that the nation’s government controls most if not all of the country’s media outlets, including radio.  That would explain the limitations on recording through a private company/studio.  The result of the production through such means was a success.  Considering the pairing of the Western and African influences and everything going on in the arrangements’ instrumentations, the overall picture painted in each song is busy to say the least.  Thanks to the attention to detail, even through a mobile studio, everything that is going on within each song is expertly-balanced.  The percussion and the guitars pair with the vocals and the organs for instance, in ‘Look at Me’ to make a sort of wall of sound effect that is easily likened to works from Santana in its organization.  It makes the sound so full and rich, in other words.  The way in which the jazzy, “airy” sound from the sax is balanced with the Afro-Cuban instrumentation of ‘The Queen’ is another example of that expert production.  The juxtaposition of that fullness from most of the instruments against the more airy-ness of the sax and the general controlled echoing sound of the whole makes for such a unique presentation.  The balance in the keyboards, guitars, and sax is solid throughout the song’s precisely five-minute run time.  It’s just one more example of the success of the record’s production even considering the circumstances.  That is a testament to the time and effort put in to this album.  The result of that effort is a presentation that sounds just as good as anything that has been produced in a studio.  It is just one more aspect of the album that makes it stand out.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing of The Dancing Devils of Djibouti is important to note because of the stability in the record’s energy that results from this element.  For the most part, the musical arrangements featured in the album are relatively mid-tempo works.  Some of the works are slightly more laid back than others, but in large part, their energies stay within a close range.  The only points at which the record’s energy changes are in its midpoint, ‘Alto’s Interlude’ and its finale, ‘The Jumping Man.’  Those two moments see the album’s energy pull back considerably more while their tone stays positive.  The end result is that those two moments break things up nicely, just enough to keep things interesting in the rest of the album.  That balance in the energies fro start to end makes the album just as pleasing in its overall effect as the record’s production and songs do.  All things considered, they make The Dancing Devils of Djibouti well worth hearing at least once if not more.  One can only hope that eventually lyrics will be available for this record.  Regardless, the album’s noted elements make the record deserving of its own spot on critics’ lists of 2020’s top new World Music albums.

Groupe RTD’s debut album The Dancing Devils of Djibouti is an entertaining an enjoyable offering from the international music collective.  That is thanks in part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements bridge African, Caribbean, and even North American influences for a whole that ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment in its own right.  Considering that this album was crafted in slightly limited fashion, its overall sound is applause-worthy, too.  The record’s sequencing works with its production and arrangements to keeping listeners  engaged just as much as the production and songs.  That is because it ensures the energies in the songs is balanced from start to end.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, The Dancing Devils of Djibouti proves itself worthy of a spot on critics’ lists of the year’s top new World Music albums.  More information on this and other offerings from Ostinato Records is available online at:



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