Elisabeth Waldo’s Maracatú, originally released in 1959, is a rare and early gesture of hybridic musical multiculturalism that has remained sinfully overlooked through the decades. Occupying a similar territory to now widely celebrated, roughly concurrent albums like Eden Ahbez's Eden's Island and Chaino’s Jungle Echoes, Pleasure For Music’s reissue turns history on its head, offering a rare opportunity for a visionary and forward-thinking body of work to receive its rightful due.
Elisabeth Waldo is a fascinating, little known figure in mid 20th century music. Born and raised within a musical family in the state of Washington, she was briefly the first violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, before moving to Mexico City and becoming deeply invested in the study of pre-Columbian music and instruments, leading to extensive work as an ethnomusicologist. At the suggestion of Diego Rivera, with whom she formed a friendship based on a shared interest in these sounds, she developed her own system of hieroglyphic musical notation for working with pre-Columbian instruments, designed to teach others how to play them. It is this deep investment and study of Latin American music - ancient and contemporary - that lays at the foundation of Maracatú, her debut LP, released in 1959.
Building on Waldo’s global-mindedness and remarkable talent as a composer and instrumentalist, Maracatú could be best understood conceptually as a historical precursor to the multiculturalism later embraced by members of the avant-garde and the New Age movements. While firmly rooted in certain musical temperaments of its era, it is an album founded on a deep respect and understanding of the musics that it channels, intent on a desire to make them more accessible and celebrated by others. Beneath its surface lay many of the elements that would define the “4th World” statements of 1970s and 80s, and Latin American / Mexican hybridic bodies of music that emerged from figures like Luis Perez, Jorge Reyes, and Antonio Zepeda.
Emerging as an entirely unique and deeply personal musical exploration of Indigenous Central and South American musical traditions, across the two sides of Maracatú - weaving a striking sound tapestry from the sounds of violins, woodwinds, guitar, and percussion, interspaced with field recordings from the natural world and occupying a liminal zone between interpretive folk and orchestral music - Waldo evokes the spirit of an ancient, mysterious world of Afro-Hispanic origins.
A truly stunning piece of work and striking, sinfully overlooked historical artefact from a different state of consciousness from our own, Elisabeth Waldo’s Maracatú is an absolute must for any fan of exotica, library music, or the history of hybridic, multi-cultural sounds. Available from Pleasure For Music on glorious vinyl, with its original cover art meticulously reproduced. Grab this one quick, and drift into an entirely singular world.