For those wondering, the roaring abyss isn't a negative thing or a weird name, as some reviews have mentioned. I'd reckon it's a call-out to the Kingdom of Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia, and that roaring you hear is all the powerful music coming from the African nation. Though it may be hard to draw a bead on what type of movie Roaring Abyss is exactly, it's a fantastic piece of art, and Highly Recommended for fans of world music.
Director Quino Pinero collects numerous field recordings from throughout Ethiopia, weaving them with day-to-day footage to create a tone-poem of hypnotic and at times rapturous beauty. Yet somehow, calling this a tone poem seems a disservice, possibly relegating Roaring Abyss to the realms of art-house cinema, when it should be seen more widely than that, and screened by anyone seriously interested in music, Ethiopian culture, or simply looking for something refreshing and uplifting.
Pinero mimics the intricate rhythmic motifs found in many of his recordings, using multiple cameras to intercut shots with dynamism. Sharp editing makes these recordings visually engaging, while subtly revealing the personalities of his subjects; from Street-Preacher type vocalists to marching band members, on-lookers, choruses, hand-clappers, defenders of ancient instruments at risk of being lost in time, and young folks continuing musical traditions with modern instruments.
Throughout, scenes of everyday life in Ethiopia, and brief interview segments from the many musicians on hand, create something of a narrative throughput, even if that narrative is only that of the transformative, vital, and invigorating nature of music-making. When people get together to enact positive efforts (such as those who helped crowd-fund this project, all of whom deserve big thanks) then wonderful things happen.
Roaring Abyss refers not to a screaming void, but to the potent tumult of sounds both new and old, coming from the Kingdom of Abyssinia, otherwise known as Ethiopia. Quino Pinero's field recording documentary takes an artistic layperson's approach to the many types of music presented. Those with a scholarly interest will surely be inspired to dig deeper, but everyone who loves world music will be hard-pressed not to get up and dance along with each number. Part documentary, part tone-poem, Roaring Abyss is a fantastic piece of art, and though the DVD presentation is limited to the movie and its trailers, it's Highly Recommended.