Big Fish Audio | Virtual Instruments Magazine Chris Meyer | Mahadhi - African Rhythms Product Review
Skip to content

Mahadhi - African Rhythms | Virtual Instruments Magazine

Reviewer: Chris Meyer Back to Mahadhi - African Rhythms product details

Let's set the record straight from the start: This is not a pristine set of carefully recorded solos and grooves performed in isolation to a click track by well-paid session musicians in high-end studios, preserved in 24-bit 96 kHz fidelity. The vast majority of the loops were recorded in mono, close-miked with varying degrees of fidelity in live ensemble performance situations, complete with some mic bleed and the occasional grunt.

And you know something? It's great. My left brain says it shouldn't be, while my right brain says shut up and dance.

All loops are available in AIFF, WAV, and REX2 formats; I tested the AIFF versions, which weigh in at just over a gig. There are 27 construction kit folders labeled by tempo. These include from five to eleven subfolders that break out each song by instruments, plus a minute-plus 24-bit stereo demo that illustrates various combination of instruments. (Don't be fooled, though, as most components are 16-bit mono.)

Each instrument folder contains anywhere from one to 47 mostly 2-bar looped phrases in 4/4, tallying up to over 1800 loops total. With the exception of the occasional kalimba folder, you get just the percussive instruments, although you can hear through the mic bleed that a full ensemble including singers was actually performing at the time these were recorded.

As noted, sound quality varies: the conga and djembe have particularly nice transients, plus the bembe and ogenne have appropriately present rattles and buzzes, but the shakers and kalimba suffer from exaggerated proximity effect by being miked too closely, while the talking drum sounds a bit muffled. This can make you cringe while listening to loops in isolation, but it becomes far less of an issue when mixed into a track.

Someone used to a steady diet of Western grooves might listen to real African rhythms and hear just a cacophony of competing instruments, assuming there's no way that the timing is tight or would line up against a steady Western pulse-hey, even I did at first. In reality, all those mad percussionists are cleverly hitting in-between beats and placing emphasis on notes other than The One.

As a result, these loops work surprisingly well as layers mixed in with straight-ahead Western drum kit grooves, as they hit the spaces in-between, rather than fighting over the accents. Although the occasional groove needs some timing correction to bring it back to a metronomic beat, the vast majority are actually in the pocket.

Another nice thing is that most of the loops are closer to backing grooves with variations rather than solos, again making them work well as layers supporting other rhythms. Stripped of their melodic instruments, the "songs" come across more as moods or flavors, also resulting in them being more flexible than anticipated.

Honestly, my initial impression of this library was not good, but now I expect to use it quite a bit for texture and spice. While recording live like this might have caused the fidelity to suffer, the flip side is that the performances are exuberant, and authentic emotion is all too hard to find when it comes to samples.

Back to top