The Very Best, “Yoshua Alikuti” (Nairobi, Kenya), 2012
Any resemblance to this is purely intentional.
Lil Wayne, “A Milli,” 2008
Here’s a big shout-out to my son Alex, who just finished his last week of classes, graduates from Harvard next month, and introduced me to The Very Best in the first place.
One sign of a great performance—no matter what the genre—is that you find yourself on the edge of your seat, leaning forward, trying to get closer.
Orutu player and singer, percussionist, live, Kenya (Homa Bey), 1996Vodpod videos no longer available.
The other night I saw these two bands—both are from Africa—at Chicago’s Logan Square Auditorium.
Kenge, Kenge (Kenya), live, Denmark (Roskilde), 2008
Khaira Arby (Mali), live, Mali (Festival of the Desert), 2010
Scribblings from the show (habit picked up reviewing live jazz for the Chicago Reader):
Kenge Kenge’s bass player at the start of their set: “We’ve been in America for the last three months. This is our last show. And we want to have some fun.”
Drum is king.
As much as I appreciate the musical experiences available via the ’net, they’re no substitute for live music. Among the casualties of the technological filtering are bass and drums—this music’s heartbeat.
This stage isn’t a dividing line. It’s porous, readily penetrable in both directions. Those onstage come down and dance; those offstage go up and dance. When everybody’s dancing—onstage, offstage—the performer/audience line dissolves.
African music, live, is a full-body experience: you listen not just with your ears but with your hips, your feet.
If folks aren’t dancing, this music ain’t happening.
At times the dancers look as if they’re in a trance.
Lightness, buoyancy, drive: this is music that takes you in its arms, lifts you up, carries you away.