Posts Tagged ‘timbila’


This video has been a long time coming. The back story: I’ve known guitarist/writer Banning Eyre for years and of course, his and Sean Barlow’s tireless efforts with their baby, Afropop Worldwide. I’ve followed their travels and travails, and admired their dedication and perseverance. I always wanted to collaborate in some way, and I got my chance when Banning called me up in the summer of 2010 and told me he was going to visit a great guitarist who was in town, to record him for a radio show, and would I like to come along? As we drove up to the Bronx, Banning filled me in on how he had first met Badian, and I got a feeling for why this interview was going to be special for him.

After a rather steep climb up to a rambling house on a hill, we were greeted by the elegantly clad Badian, and his regal wife. Banning set up his gear in the sunny backyard, and recording commenced. As I shot the performance I realized that the technique Badian used was unlike any I had seen before. One hears rippling melodic lines coming out of koras and ngonis, but transferring that sound to the guitar requires a great delicacy and precision utilizing both the up stroke and the down stroke of the “picking” fingers. Badian’s technique is utterly fluid in this way. Thank goodness for a good zoom on my camera; I was able to get nice close-ups of his hands.

Badian was in town for a month playing for the various celebrations within the West African community in the Bronx, which at this point is considerable. I can only imagine how wonderful the music must be at these events. but you will never see this kind of thing covered in Time Out or any publications of that ilk. You just have to be hooked into the scene. Banning and Badian had much to say to each other (mostly in French so I got only the gist of many names, and being brought up to date on everyone’s doings), so I just concentrated on shooting. When I got back to my house I reviewed the footage and considered how to use it….for my Huffington Post vlog? As an exclusive here on my own site? To post on guitar sites? I was in a quandary. In the midst of this indecision Banning called to say he had footage of Badian from 1996 that he had been saving for all these years and maybe there was a bigger story to be told. Could I hold off on posting until we could put something like that together?

So I held off for over a year. Banning was off and running with countless Afropop Worldwide projects and trips, and working with his own band, Timbila. But after he returned from a music collecting trip to Egypt, he was back with a vengeance, wanting to get the project up and out. So here it is at last, after hours of footage in many formats sifted through, and condensed into 15.5 minutes.

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Local NYC band Timbila performs “Sing This One Back To Me” a setting of a poem by Bob Holman, music by Timbila.
Nora Balaban is on mbira, Banning Eyre is on guitar, Louise Bradshaw is on vocals, Dirck Westervelt is on bass, and filling in for injured drummer Ed Klinger, is Peter Lewis.

All footage shot with Flip cameras, 3rd camera stationary wide shot, me roving on one, Justin Douglas from Afropop Worldwide roving on the other.
My 2nd FCP project.

For a previous post on Timbila:​13948473

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Amidst all the negative things we hear about the government of Zimbabwe, it is easy to lose sight of the magnificent culture of the country. One of its jewels is the music of the mbira, an instrument that has been used for thousands of years for spiritual practice as well as for purely musical gatherings. It is through the mbira that that the ancestors are called upon to intercede for the supplicant. But more than this, the music enables the player and the listener to achieve a transcendental state. What is also remarkable is that this ancient instrument and its music are still capable of being modified and played in new ways.

In the “grand right and left” that is networking in NYC, I found a visiting musician who is innovating in exactly this way.  When I interviewed Nora Balaban who studied mbira in Zimbabwe, she told me of a master player named Garikayi Tirikoti who was living only a few city blocks from me. And one day she showed up at my door with him.  He had brought a rucksack of mbiras, a deze (a large gourd studded with bottle caps, to amplify and distort the sound) and some shakers (hosho). He sat down on my floor and immediately set about educating me in mbira lore.

I have to say that being in the same room with a master of Garakayi’s caliber, listening to the mbira is pretty intense. It’s not hard to imagine how meditative a state this music can put one in. At the same time, it has a minimalist feel to it, with the various repeated musical modules, and every now and then I thought of the music of Philip Glass. (I wonder if he ever listens to mbira music…) I also loved Garakayi’s voice — it has a wonderful mellow lilt to it, when he sings and when he speaks. Garakayi is in Zimbabwe now, but he is returning, and he wants to put together a 28 piece mbira orchestra. New York, get ready!

There was so much to learn and to hear that I had a hard time homing in on what elements I would use for this post. But if you are interested in hearing more of Garikayi playing and explaining about the mbira, keep a lookout on this site for some exclusive videos. Or subscribe to the newsletter, and you’ll get regular emailed updates on what’s new and what’s in the pipeline.

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.