About this work
Christopher Rouse's music has always been informed by the driving rhythms of rock and as many cultures as Rouse can explore. It's no surprise, then, that he has written a number of percussion works whose eager embrace of percussion-driven traditional music is matched only by their amazing thrust and volume. Ogoun Badagris, for percussion ensemble, is one of these. In the foreword to the score, Rouse explains the context: "Ogoun Badagris derives its inspiration from Haitian drumming patterns, particularly those of the Juba Dance....Ogoun Badagris is one of the most terrible and violent of all Voodoo loas (deities) and he can be appeased only by human blood sacrifice. This work may thus be interpreted as a dance of appeasement." This is not music for faint hearts. It begins with an invocation on cabasa, which Rouse uses to stand in for the Voodoo asson, and soon moves into a tricky, propulsive groove in a grouillère. Rouse describes this dance as "brutally sexual," and its seductiveness really seems dreadful. It yields to the Danse Vaudou (Voodoo Dance), full to the brim of little explosions and cataclysms, in which the dancer is possessed by demons; the musicians shout "reler!" at the end of the work, a word similar in significance to "amen" in the Judeo-Christian tradition. While the percussion equipment used is almost all direct from the European art tradition, the stand-ins, inspirited by their fierce tradition, make a powerful impact indeed, thanks the composer's ability to apprehend an enigmatic mental universe.