It was a poet from Brooklyn who wrote "I am large, I contain multitudes," so it’s only fitting that Tom Rossi’s basement in that same New York borough manages to encompass the entire world. Salma Har, recorded in his cellar on Seventh Street is indeed a global mosaic, a border-dissolving symphony of tones and beats and harmonies from Africa and Asia and the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean and points unnamed.
Rossi himself was born in Texas, raised in Massachusetts, and went to college in the Pacific Northwest, but a moment of transformation came in a village of unpaved roads and mud huts in Togo, where Rossi grasped the raw psychotropic power of music in voodoo ceremonies: "That’s when rock & roll was never the same for me. A rock concert could never hold a candle to a voodoo ceremony. It feels like the earth has opened up and you’re sitting next to the heart of the earth and it’s just pounding."
Already an accomplished guitarist, Rossi kicked his polyglot education into a high gear. He went to Ghana to enroll in a drum and dance school run by the master percussionist Mustapha Tetty Addy. He marinated in African, Haitian, Cuban, and Brazilian rhythms while working at a dance studio in Manhattan. He taught himself the kalimba, a South African thumb piano, during six months of recuperation from surgery. Then he spent six years studying the healing arts in NYC, giving his globe-trotting sonic database a purpose: moving both body and spirit.
And in the end, the instrument that Tom Rossi might understand the best is the one that thumps squarely in the middle of your chest. This is music for, as that Brooklyn poet Walt Whitman once put it, "respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart." Listen closely; Salma Har contains multitudes.