Steve Pierce, director of the Sanctuary For Independent Media, walked up to the microphone to introduce the band and address the audience assembled there. In his brief introduction, he pointed out that the African bands who have played there have no problems in finding the place, but the regional audience for this music seems to be somewhat mystified as to where in North Troy the Sanctuary is located.
And he’s right.
But on Thursday night, more than enough people found out just where the old former church is, and the crowd to greet Sidi Toure was 100 members strong.
Sidi Toure is a guitarist-singer from the West African country of Mali, which has produced some of the finest international guitar stars in African contemporary music, including the late, great Ali Farka Toure. And Sidi Toure definitely follows in the footsteps of Ali Farka Toure, as well as those of international singing sensation, Salif Keita, also from Mali. Hey, the man can play the guitar and sing like there’s no tomorrow.
In a trio setting, Sidi Toure was accompanied by Jambala Maigi playing the kuntigui (mono-chord guitar) and Yehiya Arby playing a traditional guitar. All three guitar masters mesmerized the audience from their first notes. As with most non-Western influenced African music, the beat – even with out a drummer or percussionist – is the base and heart of the song, while the vocals, lead solo lines and everything else seems to float on top and around the rhythmic musical mass.
There were no exceptions to that undefined rule at the Sanctuary on Thursday. The trio’s combined music moved effortlessly and rhythmically, song by song. Several selections, most notably “Adema,” “Djarii ber” and “Taray Kongo,” were drawn from Sidi Toure’s latest Thrill Jockey album, “Sahel Folk,” but the rest – including a Western-sounding blues – were from their own personal song bag.
And their three-song encore had the audience standing and cheering, a great thing for a venue that a regional audience has difficulties locating, but an African band has no problem finding.
Must be their GPS…
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk