Slouching Toward Acoustic
It could just be that time of year. You know, when the sun sets practically after it rises and the chill in the air makes one want to hibernate for an entire month. It's the time of year when there are nights when you want stoke the flames, prop the feet and let your mind drift while hearing a more mellow soundtrack. It's with this mindset that this week's World Music Show (12/8) is based upon.
I can't think of no better place to place the needle down on, than in the outskirts of the Saharan Desert. The band Tinariwen is a band of Tuareg-Berber musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. They formed around 1979 in the refugee camps in Libya. After the cease-fire in the 1990s, they returned to Mali. The group first started to gain a following outside the Sahara region in 2001, with the release of "The Radio Tisdas Sessions," and the performances at Festival au Désert in Mali and at the Roskilde festival in Denmark. After their critically acclaimed CD "Aman Iman" in 2007, their popularity rose internationally. Their sound evokes the desert with sweeping guitar sounds that encompass the genre of desert blues music.
In that same set will be a track from the soulful voice of Michael Kiwanuka. He started as a sessions guitar player, but decided to add singing to his repotiore after getting praise while trying his voice out at a few clubs in London. Also in this first chunk of music, you'll hear some acoustic tunes from Rajery, who is from Madagascar and from Vusi Mahlasela, who is from South Africa.
Another highlight to keep the mellow mood moving right along will be from Habib Koite and his band Bamada. Koite is a master of all he surveys--he's a singer, songwriter, guitarist and bandleader. Says Koite, "My way to play traditional music is to adapt the sounds of the traditional insruments from Mali through my acoustic guitar." His songs really have both an old-world feel mixed with a more contemporary beat. To compliment his sounds, you'll hear a track from the guitarist Aurelio, who is from the Honduran coast, as well as a couple more desert blues guitar sounds from the man who goes by the moniker of Bombino.
To close out the first hour, will be the piece-de-resistance of acoustic sounds. We'll hear an acoustic duet featuring Ali Farka Toure, who plays masterful, improvisional guitar, along with Toumani Diabate, who is able to pluck some incredible sounds out of the Kora (pictured above). And, in case you're wondering, the Kora is a harp built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck. Although calling it a harp may not fit the bill, for the Kora doesn't fit into any one category of musical instruments, but rather several. It's supposed to be classified as a "double-bridge-harp-lute." Farka Toure and Diabate are two of Africa's greatest musicians. The track, "Simbo," was one of their first recordings together. It's from the CD "In the Heart of the Moon," which was recorded in a mobile studio in the hotel Mande' on the banks of Niger River in Bamako, Mali.
To round out that duet will be tracks from Brazilian Seu Jorge (doing a great David Bowie cover) and a couple of songs from the Playing for Change arsenal, which feature a dozen musicians from all over the globe re-doing some great songs--in this case "War/No More Trouble," and "Higher Ground."
Now, in case you're thinking about drifting off before hour two begins, because the acoustic music, the feet-propping and the fire are lulling you into slumber--think again. The beats in hour two will be less acoustic in nature and more, shall I say, upbeat. We'll start with the powerful, political voice of Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, and add in some live tracks from Angelique Kidjo's live performance at Guest Street. In her two song set, expect to hear her paired with Diane Reeves (on a great cover of The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter,"), and with Branford Marsalis (on another great cover--this time of Curtis Mayfield song "Move on Up).
I think at this point, you may want to have some surprises left to look forward to. So, I'll leave you with this bit of fun to listen for: Classic Italian tunes, some indie Brazilian beats, some gravely-voiced Mento music and a couple of stellar covers of U2 songs. Why spoil the entire show by telling you everything, right?
The World Music Show aires Saturday nights at 10:00 p.m. on WCVE Public Radio, on 88.9FM or online via this portal. You can follow my updates on the show or on the world of World Music via Twitter, @wcveworldmusic.