The incredulous story behind Chaino reads like a press-agent's pipe dream and we hesitate to tell it here because it sounds so much more like fiction than fact. Telling it will remind you of a Tarzan tale... in reverse, but some of the details in Chaino's life must be told if we are to understand the power and the beauty in the music this man can make with his hands.
Chaino was born approximately 28 years ago, and is believed to be amongst the only survivors of a lost race who once thrived in a remote sector of Central Africa. There are legends and strange reports of Chaino's tribe. Natives from surrounding areas and a few safaris that have penetrated this part of the Congo tell stories about the unusual powers of these people. They were looked upon by other natives as God-like beings, possessed of extraordinary physiques and high intelligence. A myth about them says that they could run alongside the swiftest of wild beasts and that they were able to communicate with and understand the animals.
Years ago, this legend intrigued a missionary and his life [sic] who started out to discover this tribe and study their strange culture. Many months and many hardships later, they found the remnants of what had been a native village. Surrounding hostile tribes had attacked the village and massacred its inhabitants. They found only a small boy near death starving amongst the ruins of the village.
They nursed the hoy back to health and brought him to civilization. They were unable to decipher his strange native dialect but did learn that his name was Chaino. The boy, exposed to civilization, quickly learned the ways of the white man, but never abandoned his native culture. At an early age, he made his own drums and continued to sing his bizarre rhythms and chants. Years later, when Chaino was 15 years old, he was brought to the United States, and was educated in Philadelphia. There, he continued his interest in percussion instruments and absorbed what he could of other native cultures and rituals that were much like his own...other African rhythms, the Calypso beat from Cuba and the Voodoo rites from Haiti.
Today, he has developed a talent that began as a birthright. Practicing as long as 17 hours a day, his hands have become so strong and quick he is able to play seven drums at one time with blinding speed.
Although Chaino, away from his drums, is quiet and reserved, his savage beginnings seem to come to the surface when he begins to make music. All of his wild vigor and primitive spirit is projected through his drums, and he lifts his rhythm to such an animated frenzy he shifts into a trance-like state. Whether these primitive trances resemble religious ecstasy, secular joy manifested rhythmically, or sexual orgy is difficult to determine, but one cannot deny the vitality and beauty that is so stirring to hear and see.
Comparison of Chaino's music and American music does not yield very close parallels. Jazz, which some have said to be an outgrowth of African music, is a measured music with fixed beats. Native drumming does not break down into a precisely structured rhythm. There are shifts in time and counterpoints of rhythm that indicate a rhythmic conception outside of Western tradition. And, as at least one critic has pointed out, there is far more of the sound of jazz in Middle-European gypsy fiddling than there is in African drumming.
So, don't try to approach Chaino's music then as a source for jazz or any other music we have ever heard. While certain similarities can be drawn, his music is too distinctive to be placed in any one grouping and it must be heard as a thing in itself and for itself.
By painstaking over-dubbing and patient selection, Omega has recorded the best and most representative music of Chaino. The selections include:
THE JUNGLE CHASE (African)-A native and his mate breathlessly racing through the jungle being chased by man-eating lions. (Bass drums, boo bams, maracas.)
TORTURE OF THE MAU MAU (African) -A depiction of the torturing of a Mau Mau warrior who has not passed the tests of strength, refusing to take the blood curdling oath. (Bass drums, maracas, sticks.)
CO-GONA VOODOO (African)-A ritual dance rhythm of Central Africa played on one of Chaino's original drum creations. (Fast Congo, regular congo, hollow log, boo bams, sansa bongos.)
THE FEAST DANCE (Trinidad) -Typical rhythms of Trinidad played on a steel pan. The steel drum is indigenous to the natives of Trinidad, who cut out instruments from old oil drums when British authorities forbade them to play their music. (Trinidad, bass drum, maracas.)
THE LIMBO (Afro-Trinidad) - An African drum interpretation of the rhythm of a very popular dance in Trinidad, called The Limbo. (Sansa, bass drum, bongos, maracas.)
JUNGLE DRUM VARIATIONS (African) -Variations of rhythms and drum sounds heard in the more uncivilized and unexplored sectors of Central Africa. (Fast congo, regular congo, hollow log, boo bams, bongos.)
CUM-BA-SEE (African) - An African love chant meaning "Watch Me Dance." (Bass drum, regular congo, fast congo.)
THE SPEAR DANCE (African)-The rhythm of a ceremonial dance that natives do with spears. (Regular congo, fast congo, bass drum, tamberoa, co-congo.)
SAFARI JUNGLE MAZE (African) - An
interpretation of an African safari traveling through the jungle. (Bass drum, claves.)