Bobby McFerrin, “VOCAbuLarieS”

“take away the words, letting all the sounds just play” –“Say Ladeo”, VOCAbuLarieS

When an incredibly gifted artist devotes seven years to creating a magnum opus, it is worth perking up one’s ears.  Bobby McFerrin’s VOCAbuLarieS is indeed a great work: a collection of sonic poems, born of his incredibly creative improvisations and embracing the full range of his voice and the broadest possible range of styles.  The record is aptly named: he uses vocals—his own voice and those of many talented guests—and many of the earth’s languages to create an aural vocabulary.

And what vocabulary is that?  The words themselves are in English, Latin, Sanskrit, Spanish, Italian, Zulu, Russian, Hebrew, Portuguese, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Arabic, German and Gaelic.  The musical vocabulary calls on R&B, gospel, sacred choral music, Gregorian chant, African tribal music.  The poetry in the writing  could be classified as the vocabulary of ‘sacred music’: it is spiritual, and it weaves in the traditions and stories of many major religions, old and young.  And some of the words are simply of Bobby McFerrin’s own invention: it is truly a vocabulary all his own.

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