Music: Tremendous Magic

During World War II, round-faced Arthur S. Alberts of Yonkers, N.Y. went to West Africa as head of an OWI mission. He came back an enthusiastic amateur musicologist. The primitive native music—its complicated rhythms pounded out with hands or curved sticks on crudely made drums—made him think inevitably of the origins of jazz. He recorded some of it on ancient equipment for the Library of Congress, returned to the U.S. convinced that West African music deserved some better recording.

Last year Alberts went back to Africa. Equipping a "poor man's safari," including a jeep, a high-fidelity tape recorder and cameras, Alberts and...

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