Big Fish Audio | Recording Magazine Michael Nickolas | Mahadhi - African Rhythms Product Review
Skip to content

Mahadhi - African Rhythms | Recording Magazine

Reviewer: Michael Nickolas Back to Mahadhi - African Rhythms product details

Mahadhi African Rhythms is an ambitious project. It contains over 1800 drum and percussion loops that, according to the DVD label, "...takes you from Zimbabwe to Kenya, Algeria to the Ivory Coast." Installation is done by simply copying the folder containing the format of your choice - Apple Loops, REX, or WAV files - to your hard drive. The WAV file loops were used for this review.


Loops are organized by tempo. There are 27 tempo folders ranging from 90-170 BPM with some tempos represented multiple times. Within a tempo folder are folders named for instruments. The documentation lists 17 different instruments that are used over the entire library but there are actually 21; each tempo folder averages seven different instruments. Some instruments are familiar like djembe, conga and talking drum. Less familiar instruments (at least to me) include goje kalimba, juju and saworo. All of the tempos assigned to a folder are based on a 4/4 time signature, but a few had more of a 6/8 feel. For example, an eight-beat loop in the 103 BPM folder could have been sorted as a six-beat loop at 77 BPM.

There are just a few editing glitches, which isn’t bad out of 1800 loops. When opened in Sound Forge, some of the loops caused the error message "This file contained an illegal Sample Loop. The loop has been corrected." Nothing that stopped me from working or made the loops behave badly, but a little annoying. There were one or two file-management hiccups: the "103 BPM 2" folder was empty, and there was a folder of AIFF files in the WAV folder. The WAV files are not ACIDized; they contain no beat, pitch, or one-shot information. It's easy enough to add this metadata in ACID, Live, or whatever DAW you're using, but many users now expect it to be there right from the start.

Missing was documentation explaining what area of Africa any particular rhythm was from. This would be nice to know and would give the user the possibility of creating region-specific grooves. Sometimes projects, like documentary films, require music accurate to exact locations.


The loops were recorded as a live ensemble, which is great for feel, but brings a bit of baggage like headphone/mic bleed and human noises. Most of the time this is not a problem, but you may have an occasion when this gets in the way of using a particular loop.

Each tempo folder also contains a demo groove that was created using some of the content from that folder. These demo files are 24-bit and sound professionally mastered. They are well done, with nice panning and instrument choice. The loops themselves are 16-bit; their stand-alone sound is natural. I particularly liked the sticky drum, big ekwe and talking drums.

Some loops sounded like they could be useful in styles other than African. It's nice to see the loops are mono, saving space and giving you greater control of panning. Most every loop peaks at 0.0 dB. Being percussive instruments there are sharp transients; track compression could be in order when you mix. Most loop cleanly, though because of the intricate poly-rhythms and accents it's a bit hard to tell when you listen isolated!

When using the loops in a song, I found I could mix instruments from different tempo folders but that the best groove was obtained by staying in a single folder.

Minuses and pluses

Big Fish Audio probably put the $99.95 price tag on this library due to the sheer volume of content. With over 1800 loops and over 2 GB of content, it is two to three times the size of most ethnic libraries. Mahadhi has unique instruments performed with nice feels. Little editing glitches aside, it provides a unique and in-depth library for an under-represented musical style.

Back to top