MUSIC MAY BE, as Longfellow put it, "the universal language of mankind," but there are sufficient musical dialects to considerably befuddle the uninitiated listener. Thankfully, recordings have made it easy for the armchair ethnomusicologist to get a sense of the world's sounds, from Arab orchestras to African drummers.

ORCHESTRE DE FEZ -- "Maroc: Musique Classique Andalou-Mahgrebine (Morocco: Andalusian-Maghrebian Classical Music)" (Ocora Digital 558 588). With roots going back to the late 9th century, this instrumental style has long been a staple in northern Africa, and in its orchestral form will remind some listeners of the backing provided the late Oum Koulsoum. The selections are from classic Moroccan nawbat, and their blend of solo flair and ensemble cohesion makes this album an excellent introduction to Moroccan music.

THE NATIONAL PERCUSSION GROUP OF KENYA -- "Roots! African Drums" (Denon CD 38C39-7276). Unlike the Afro-Cuban drumming familiar to many Americans, traditional African drumming is better understood if the beat is ignored, for, unlike the simple time-keeping expected of Western drumming, the shifting patterns and complex counter- rhythms of African music are given the same compositional attention Westerners expect to find lavished on melody and harmony. Because this compact disc emphasizes the textural variety in these percussion ensembles, it's much easier to hear the rhythmic layering of the music, and thereby understand its inner logic.

VARIOUS ARTISTS -- "Rajasthan: Fiddles and Jews' Harps" (Le Chant Du Monde CM 637). On the northwestern border of India, east of Pakistan and south of Punjab, Rajasthan makes for a unique cultural crossroads, and that's clearly reflected in the music presented here. The fiddles are played in a style blending Arabic mannerisms with the traditional vocabulary of northern Indian sarangi players. As for the jews' harps -- here called ghoralio or ghodyun -- they're used to generate haunting, semi-melodic drones that seem strangely transcendent.

E. KOESTYARA & GROUP GAPURA -- "Sangkala" (Icon 5501). This album was a big hit in Indonesia, where it was recorded, and it's not hard to understand why. Although the music draws upon the instrumentation and form of classic gamelan styles, it takes a lighter, more popular approach, emphasizing the simplicity and immediacy of the melodies and rhythms employed. As a result, this music is as refreshing as a summer shower, and eminently accessible to boot.

SUKAY -- "Sovacon" (Flying Fish FF 351). The sounds of Andean folk music will come as no surprise to any pop fan familiar with Simon and Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa," but because the members of Sukay embrace Andean folk styles as being all of a type, there is a unity to the music here that goes well beyond the borders of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Better yet, there's a sweetness to the sound of the group's pan- pipes and guitars that makes these songs utterly irresistible. -- J.D. Considine. Whole New Worlds of Music

MUSIC MAY BE, as Longfellow put it, "the universal language of mankind," but there are sufficient musical dialects to considerably befuddle the uninitiated listener. Thankfully, recordings have made it easy for the armchair ethnomusicologist to get a sense of the world's sounds, from Arab orchestras to African drummers.

ORCHESTRE DE FEZ -- "Maroc: Musique Classique Andalou-Mahgrebine (Morocco: Andalusian-Maghrebian Classical Music)" (Ocora Digital 558 588). With roots going back to the late 9th century, this instrumental style has long been a staple in northern Africa, and in its orchestral form will remind some listeners of the backing provided the late Oum Koulsoum. The selections are from classic Moroccan nawbat, and their blend of solo flair and ensemble cohesion makes this album an excellent introduction to Moroccan music.

THE NATIONAL PERCUSSION GROUP OF KENYA -- "Roots! African Drums" (Denon CD 38C39-7276). Unlike the Afro-Cuban drumming familiar to many Americans, traditional African drumming is better understood if the beat is ignored, for, unlike the simple time-keeping expected of Western drumming, the shifting patterns and complex counter- rhythms of African music are given the same compositional attention Westerners expect to find lavished on melody and harmony. Because this compact disc emphasizes the textural variety in these percussion ensembles, it's much easier to hear the rhythmic layering of the music, and thereby understand its inner logic.

VARIOUS ARTISTS -- "Rajasthan: Fiddles and Jews' Harps" (Le Chant Du Monde CM 637). On the northwestern border of India, east of Pakistan and south of Punjab, Rajasthan makes for a unique cultural crossroads, and that's clearly reflected in the music presented here. The fiddles are played in a style blending Arabic mannerisms with the traditional vocabulary of northern Indian sarangi players. As for the jews' harps -- here called ghoralio or ghodyun -- they're used to generate haunting, semi-melodic drones that seem strangely transcendent.

E. KOESTYARA & GROUP GAPURA -- "Sangkala" (Icon 5501). This album was a big hit in Indonesia, where it was recorded, and it's not hard to understand why. Although the music draws upon the instrumentation and form of classic gamelan styles, it takes a lighter, more popular approach, emphasizing the simplicity and immediacy of the melodies and rhythms employed. As a result, this music is as refreshing as a summer shower, and eminently accessible to boot.

SUKAY -- "Sovacon" (Flying Fish FF 351). The sounds of Andean folk music will come as no surprise to any pop fan familiar with Simon and Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa," but because the members of Sukay embrace Andean folk styles as being all of a type, there is a unity to the music here that goes well beyond the borders of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Better yet, there's a sweetness to the sound of the group's pan- pipes and guitars that makes these songs utterly irresistible. --