Lizz Wright, we learn, is more than just a singer of incredible power and subtlety. She’s living to create, not creating to live. Lizz drops a lot of wisdom during our chat and we get to hear a taste of her brand new album, Grace.
Walter Becker, co-founder of Steely Dan, passed away this week. Today, I went digging through my archives and found a 2010 interview we recorded upon the release of Roger Rosenberg’s Baritonality, an album Becker produced. I found it and wanted to share it immediately. Walter’s open spirit, humility, and excitement about the big and small things around music all come through. We’ll listen to some excerpts from that album and share the complete free wheeling conversation with jazz critic, John Coltelli, myself and the great Walter Becker.
Today we share a WKCR broadcast featuring musicians Amir ElSaffar, Awa Sangho, Roman Diaz, Martha Redbone, and producer Hans Taparia from the India Center Foundation.
We were promoting Outside (In)dia a free concert series, at Lincoln Center featuring all those great musicians. The opening event is this Friday with Amir El Saffar and we’ll hear a discussion with Amir as well as music from all these amazing musicians.
Outside (In)dia is a four-part concert series produced by The India Center Foundation and curated by Brooklyn Raga Massive that pushes the boundaries and conceptions of Indian classical music. With commissions of new works bringing raga into play with musical traditions spanning Cuba to Iraq, the series will position Indian classical music as a space for inclusion, collaboration, and conversation in a revolutionary new way.
Subsequent events in the series will feature Cuban master drummer Román Diaz (Nov 10),powerful Malian singer Awa Sangho (Feb 9) and Native American folk and soul songstress Martha Redbone (Apr 13).
Here’s a great one from the archives! A beautiful live performance and discussion with Abdoulaye Alhassane Tourewith Deep Sahara at WKCR in 2010. w/ Yacouba Diabate (Kora) Frederika Krier (Violin) and David Ellenbogen (guitar). Abdoulaye is a guitarist and singer from Gao, Mali with roots in Northern Mali and Niger. He brings all these regional sounds of this diverse part of the world into his music. He also absorbed American Jazz and Blues…you’ll hear it all.
More about Abdoulaye:
By Banning Eyre | April, 2007 [guitar player mg]
Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure has brought string-picking wizardry from the desert towns of West Africa to the nightclubs of New York City. Born in 1963, in Niamey, Niger, to a Sonrai family from Gao, Mali, he passed his youth in a multi-ethnic neighborhood surrounded by Peul, Bambara, Sonrai, and other peoples, and as he put it, “They all played music.” Local radio filled his ears with the sinuous, bluesy strains of desert folklore and the melodious bombast of Mande griots. When his parents returned to Mali, Toure recalled, “They came back with cassettes by Ibrahim Hamma Dicko, Fissa Maiga, and Ali Farka Toure, who sang in a language we understood, and I was incredibly inspired by the originality of this music.” Toure’s musical gift became obvious when he started hanging out in the Niamey nightclub where his uncle, Johnny Ali Maiga, led a band.
“Johnny Ali Maiga played folklore, like Ali Farka Toure,” said Toure, “But he also loved rock. His group was on the radio in Niamey, and it sounded like the Malian music I was listening to at home, but sung in Zerma, the national language of Niger.”
By the early ’80s, Toure was playing guitar and flute, and his first band incorporated electric guitar, bass, drums, and brass, and merged regional folk styles with international pop. When the group took first prize in a national competition, Toure became a full-time musician. By the late ’80s, he was leading Super Kassey—the first Niamey band to travel abroad and record in a modern studio.
Before long, Toure was working as a guitar instructor at the European-run Center for the Education and Promotion of Music. In 1992, Toure teamed up with singer/flutist Yacouba Moumouni to create Niger’s most successful roots pop band to date, Mamar Kassey. Mamar Kassey’s two electrifying CDs, Denke Denke (1999) and Alatoumi (2000) showcase Toure’s guitar mastery and formidable arranging skills. The music is rooted in tradition, but molded into brisk arrangements that include key modulations and bursts of solo improvisation.
“Improvisation existed in Sonrai music,” explained Toure, “but in another form. In our ceremonies, there’s an original melody that is played by the kurbu [a 3-stringed lute]. When the energy rises between the players and the dancers, the kurbu player leaves his melody, and follows his heart. But if you tell that kurbu player to work with a modern group and ‘improvise,’ you have to explain to him what it means.”
Mamar Kassey’s travels eventually brought Toure to New York City, where he now lives and performs with his current band, Deep Sahara. Toure can cradle an acoustic guitar and fingerpick his way through desert trance grooves, and he can also take up a flatpick, and wail on electric—edging desert folklore into the realm of blues and rock. One day, he plans to return to Niger to set up a studio and form an international touring band. For now, Toure is merely one of the most riveting African guitarists to be found in the United States.
This week we revisit a classic interview with Hugh Masekela from 2013.
Hugh Masekela is the most well known jazz musician from Africa. His first big hit was in 1968 and he has sold millions of albums, won multiple Grammys and worked with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Dizzy Gillespie. Fresh off a tour with Paul Simon, he and his band are super-refined, with perfect vocal harmonies, deep grooves, and inspired improvisations. Masekela is considered a legend of South African Music and the apartheid struggle, but that’s not how he see’s it.
I got to spend sometime backstage with him and now so do you!
Here’s one quote from the interview:
“I never had a career, I had an obsession with music. And my obsession with it, and maybe a little gift that I had, threw me into the area, but my aim, even when I came overseas, was to learn and to study and everything else is a coincidence. But I didn’t plan to make it for myself. If you look at anybody who is out there to make it for themselves they self-destruct. They become very big and then they self-destruct. As long as you’ve got the “me” thing in your head you’re doomed.” – Hugh Masekela
Hailing from Cameroon, but living now in France, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Blick Bassy is creating a fresh, new sound with stunning vocals, banjo and luscious soundscapes from his bandmates. His new album, Akö with his comrades Clément Petit on cello and Johan Blanc on trombone, are raising eyebrows with their totally original tribute to Skip James. Blick sings in his native tongue, Bassa, one of very few. We caught up with Blick Bassy and hung backstage after an incredible show at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium.