Habib Koite, one of Mali’s most beloved singer/guitarists was in town last month to promote his new CD “Soô” on Contre Jour Records. He packed NYC’s City Winery with a polyglot audience, which included a hefty West African compliment.
Koité is a seasoned performer, and everyone on stage was relaxed and having fun. The most striking aspect of the show was the use of an unusual hybrid instrument, having a 6-string guitar neck with a banjo head and resonator. While played in the Malian guitar style, it projected the singular tone of a banjo. (Not all that odd, considering the banjo is African in origin.) This is also one of the strong sonic additions to “Soô ” which was recorded in Koite’s home studio, and which I highly recommend.
I had brought along my intern Molly Marcotte for second camera, and I think I had almost as much fun seeing her reactions to this show as I had to the show itself. As the show progressed more and more people were throwing money at the musicians and coming up on stage to dance with the maestro. While this is typical, down home behavior for an African audience I think it entranced Molly, particularly the style and skill of the dancing. By the time the show ended, Koité was standing in a puddle of greenbacks and the stage was a party in which everyone had a chance to show off their moves. And some of those moves were very impressive!
The song I am presenting is called “Diarabi Niani” a song about the hazards of love, and it occurred fairly early on in the set. But you can definitely see the party is beginning!
For an informed review of the CD, background on the artist, sound samples and more, visit the ever excellent site Rootsworld, at http://www.rootsworld.com/0603123/reviews/koite-14.shtml
If we know anything of Cape Verdean music, it is largely due to the efforts of one man, Jose DaSilva, founder of the Lusafrica label, and producer of the late great Cesaria Evora.
Since that diva’s death, there have been many singers touted as having “inherited the mantle of Cesaria Evora.” What attracted me to the PR announcing Neuza’s set at was that this phrase was nowhere in sight, and instead stressed her roots in the island of Fogo, and her mastery of its specific musical repertoire. When I sat down with Mr. DaSilva, he made it quite clear that his interest, beyond her being an excellent singer, was this repertoire.
I expected a somewhat bare bones acoustic presentation from this, but as soon as I walked into sound check, I heard a fully electrified band warming up. The signature cavaquino (Portuguese ukulele) was there, but so was a synthesizer and a full kit. So the house filled up, the band took their places and Neuza started to sing.
First up: she’s a natural. A wonderful singer. She may have sung the first song, “Cuidado Na Bu Bida” (presented here) in a gently sweet voice, but I can assure you, she was just warming up and further down the road, she employed a steely high chest tone. And this song is a coladeira, a typical Cape Verdean dance probably descended from morna, the most well known song form from the islands, and not one of the songs specific to Fogo. But if, as I suspect you are not an expert on Cape Verdean music, dear reader, just give a listen to this lilting and lovely song which philosophizes about how to deal with the vicissitudes of life. And maybe dance a bit.
The house was packed with Cape Verdeans, who knew almost every song and soon dance partners were found, and all were stepping and subtly swaying to an island rhythm. It was an early set beginning at 7:30, and SOB’s usually gets its groove on around midnight, but it was obvious that this audience would have been there for the whole night, if Neuza had continued to sing.
For more about Neuza, visit: lusafrica.com/4_1.cfm?p=412-neuza
For more about Lusafrica, visit: lusafrica.com/1.cfm?p=51-lusafrica-world-music-label-cap-verde-africa-latine-america-caraibes