Sunday, April 01, 2012

Born as a strong man

The Master Drummers of Burundi used to be the official royal drummers who accompanied the kings of Burundi. They were equally entertaining to watch as to listen to. They said that traditionally the drums must take their cues from the dancers, in order to perfectly match their rhythms, and not the other way around. This is counterintuitive to me, but then I have no technical knowledge about either dance or percussion.
This was a workshop, so there was an opportunity for some people from the audience to get up on stage to try the drums. We happened to get up to leave just before the end (there must have been another show we wanted to get to on the other side of the park). As we were walking away the real drummers took the stage again and the sudden change in the noise level was tremendous - they really hit the drums hard compared to the beginners.
Chapelier Fou is a project of Louis Warynski, a classically trained violinist. He uses a combination of loops and samples to build up his music live. Very enjoyable.
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Then there was Kimmo Pohjonen from Finland. I had read an article the week prior about this accordionist who was taking this much-maligned instrument and doing something new and exciting with it. I had mixed feelings about that, as (in case you haven't already picked this up) I LIKE folky accordion the way it is. I also like other harsh or somewhat discordant sounding instruments like bagpipes and harpsichord.
But this was amazing (if not necessarily something I could listen to on CD every day). Like Chapelier Fou, Pohjonen used a lot of looping of the various sounds to build up a rich soundscape. Towards the end of the show he played some pieces which were composed for some kind of event involving (farm?) machinery - according to wikipedia this is Earth Machine Music. It turns out an accordion CAN sound like an engine turning over. At least, a modified and amplified one can.
I had a great time photographing this guy - great costume, lighting and stage presence!
I don't have any good photos of Staff Benda Bilili (Look Beyond Appearances), they were great fun though with their infectious music. These musicians from Kinshasa comprise a bunch of older formerly homeless guys, working with young homeless kids, at least one of whom invented his own instrument. Oh and they get around on modified tricyles (the four original members had polio in childhood). They seem to use more conventional wheelchairs when on tour. Here are a couple of videos - this one was shot in Kinshasa and has a translation of the lyrics, and this one is more upbeat and more likely what I remember from the gig.

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