Thursday, August 1, 2013

All Star Jam Session for Mali with Vieux Farka Toure -- Liv - Jul 31 2013

All Star Jam Session for Mali - This event was organized by Massama Dogo of the excellent local band Elikeh. They have opened for legendary Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure at some of my favorite shows in years past and have become friends (and brothers). So Massama invited Vieux to DC to work on getting a Malian charity going to help that country get back to stability and reestablishing itself as the center for some of the finest music in all of the world. The show tonight featured dozens of musicians from area bands, mostly African based, that recombined into unique combos to play a few songs and allow a few guests to pop in and out. The quality was quite high as they spent some rehearsal time and had the right amount of loose jamming mixed in with tight rhythms and controlled soloing. I will loosely mention the five variations presented here to keep in the spirit of just having a great time while doing something for Mali. There were three full hours of music, where it is probably best not to put in writing the exact time the event ended, as it was too hard to stop playing with so many fine musicians to showcase.

                                         photo courtesy of Leyou Gennene via FBook

Group 1 featured a majority of members from Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, who have been gracing stages in the DC area for some time now. They were joined by members of Elikeh, Funk Ark, and ace guitarist John Lee. Some good rhythms (pretty much a constant tonight), nice organ solos, as well as brass and guitar gave heft to these feel-good songs. The trombonist for Black Masala jumped in a couple of times.

Group 2 featured local singer songwriter Nila Kay, joined by Elikeh's rhythm section and another guitarist. She showed about as much diversity as possible in her 14 minute 3-song set starting off with a quirky pop/power-pop oddity that had fascinating hooks twisting in and out. Next was a loungier blues and to finish if off, there was a ripping Bo Diddley beat for the final rocker. She is certainly someone to watch if this is any indication of the diverse and creative directions she is capable of.

Group 3 feature a bit more of the Elikeh band assisted with some Chopteeth members and an extra guitarist, Jaja Bashengezi. Then one more guitarist, Vieux Farka Toure also joined in as this short set was rocking hard while keeping up a good personal R&B flavor deep in the groove. The searing guitar solos were the highlight of course, but the whole band really pushed things up a notch.

Group 4 stripped it down to John Lee on guitar, with a guest bassist for most of the set and a drummer. In front of this Elin Kathleen Melgarejo of Alma Tropicalia and as the name suggests, this brought in a bit of Brazilian Tropicalia into tonight's blend. It was very Gal Costa-like, such as the period when someone like Os Mutantes backed her. In fact, they finished with "Bat Macumba", Os Mutantes' most party-friendly song from their canon.

And finally, Group 5 featured Cheick Hamala Diabate with members of his band among others from the previous bands. He played banjo and and a West African lute called a n'goni, which was electrified. And good thing too, because at times he was surrounded by Vieux Farka Toure and his guitarist battling it out at high volume (see photo above). They did bring it down some with Toure leading a song that was reminiscent of Skynyrd's "Simple Man" surprisingly enough (and perfectly fine by me).  Diabate is an impressive artist and gave the evening a classy finish.

While it was almost impossible to find fault with something so well intentioned, even a 'music-only' person would have been impressed by this amazing array of talent who were able to play together so well tonight. So please support these bands as they play around DC and of course, support Vieux Farka Toure and his charity work for Mali.

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