Review: Acoustic Africa
Habib Koité, Oliver Mtukudzi & Afel Becoum
March 6, 2011
Koerner Hall, Toronto
• Still on tour - including April 6, 2011- B.B. King Blues Club, New York, NY
I was there, but how can I really describe the concert that brought together three great talents in the traditions of African guitar - Afel Becoum and Habib Koité from Mali, and Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe? It was a warm evening of infectious music, great personalities and three musicians who seemed to truly love playing - and dancing - together.
All three are known for developing their own distinctive style from a mixture of their nation's traditions and more modern influences, including, naturally, the adoption of the guitar to music that was once played on other instruments. The resulting poly-melodic and polyrhythmic music seems naturally compatible to this kind of collaboration. As Habib put it, "Maybe our grandfathers, they traveled a lot."
A total of 8 musicians took the stage, including another guitarist (because 3 just isn't enough for this kind of music!) the bass player and drummer I recognize from Bamako, Habib's usual band, a very talented dancer who played small percussion and mbira, and another gentleman on the ngoni. They played in various combinations from solo to all 8 together, adding a lot of variety to the mix.
In a crowd of Africans, it's usually the older guy who's the best dancer, and I'd give those kudos to Oliver. They had much of last night's sold out crowd on its feet too by the end.
Given Koerner Hall's great success with their African series programming, I'm excited to see what they have in store next season - announcements coming April 19 I'm told.