The Africa Project

The Africa Project, Béla Fleck‘s project to play with African musicians, came to the Sheldon Concert Hall Wednesday night. Fleck spent some time touring Africa with the idea of bringing the banjo back to the continent and playing with some of its best musicians, and the tour developed from it.

Fleck began with a few solo banjo pieces. Then each musician came out to play his own music followed by a number or two of call and response with Fleck. Fiddler Casey Driessen popped on stage once in a while. Anania Ngoglia, a blind player of the thumb piano, was the first African musician. His first song was great, and it left me wishing he had played more like it. D’Gary, a guitarist from Madagascar, followed him.

After intermission, South African Vusi Mahlasela sang and played guitar. He has many stories of fighting apartheid. Several months ago, I found this YouTube video of Patrick Sky playing “Guabi Guabi.” YouTube user peglegsam has uploaded many wonders. I watched Born for Hard Luck: Peg Leg Sam Jackson last weekend via its page on FolkStreams. “Guabi Guabi” came from Zimbabwean George Sibanda, who played amazingly bouncy and catchy music. Sibanda was wildly popular in South Africa for a while. Mahlasela’s music has some of the same flavor.

Toumani Diabaté was the highlight. He is a griot, billed as the 71st generation of his line, who plays the kora, a harp instrument with a calabash gourd resonator. The kora has a terrific sound, and he must be the best player. I had hoped to hear some songs, but he seems to be mainly an instrumentalist.

While I like Fleck’s own music well enough and recognize that he is extremely proficient, I count him more as someone whose interests also appeal to me. Fleck did a wonderful thing to bring these people to us.

1 Comment »

Michael M. on April 3rd 2009 in General, Live, Music

One Response to “The Africa Project”

  1. bobber responded on 04 Apr 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    Yeah, I like Bela Fleck. A very unique musician. This kind of reminds me of the stuff JL Ponty did in the 80’s. If you like African influenced Jazz, you should look into that.

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