LIVE: “Africa Unplugged” @ Proctors, 4/13/18
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
It’s been said that music is the universal language. And that was certainly proven true with “Africa Unplugged,” the season finale of the Passport Series at Proctors’ GE Theatre in Schenectady, which featured two musical acts from different parts of Africa.
First up was South African guitarist Derek Gripper, who has transcribed the music of kora master Toumani Diabaté to the classical guitar. Not an easy feat, as the kora has 42 strings, the guitar has just six. The listeners didn’t miss 36 strings as they listened to Gripper’s virtuosic playing accompanied by snippets of a very off-the-wall sense of humor, describing the influence of Joni Mitchell on one of his original pieces and comparing J.S. Bach and the rest of the Bach family to griots, somehow tying in all these influences together to make musical sense.
Trio De Kali took the opposite approach. All three members are griots (an inherited position) from the West African country of Mali; they sought to preserve the traditions of their forefathers through the playing of their music, although not always a traditional fashion. The soaring vocals of Hawa Kassé were quite expertly accompanied by the masterful balofon of Lassana Diabaté and the bass ngoni of Mamadou Kouyaté. The trio recently collaborated with the avant garde Kronos String Quartet for the album, Ladilikan, on the World Circuit label, but in this case played alone. Non Malian influences were clearly heard in their music as well, as Lassana quoted Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” in one of his solos, and Ugandan musician, Kinobe sat in for a few songs, too.
The concert was quite a change from what we normally hear from Africa, the electrifying sounds of AfroBeat. For the most part, the music was acoustic with the help of electronic amplification, yet it was easily danceable.
This marked the end of the first season of the Passport Series at Proctors. For more exhilarating world music, stay tuned for the free Music Haven series at Schenectady’s Central Park this summer.
GO HERE to see more of Rudy Lu’s photographs of this concert…