Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Treat: West African/Jazz FREE SHOW TONIGHT (10/31) by The Brand New Life

The Brand New Life is blend of jazz improvisation and West African mbalax and Afrobeat. For a Halloween treat, the Greensboro band plays a FREE SHOW TONIGHT (10/31) at 11 pm at The Station in Carrboro.

To learn more about how this band got together, read my profile in The Independent earlier this year. The last time I saw them, at Shakori Hills in October, they were seriously on fire, with heavy mbalax grooves by their Senegalese talking drummer, Mamadou Mbengue, following on the heels of jazz tunes with crazy meters. Mamadou takes a solo at the end of this clip of the BNL live at 2011 Floydfest:


Facebook event page: Halloween (10/31) with The Brand New Life

Venue calendar: The Station in Carrboro

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bio Ritmo Rises with new CD, "La Verdad"

Bio Ritmo gave a fresh first set at the joint party with Orquesta GarDel on October 14 at Durham's Motorco. I didn't take a lot of video, but here's a look at pretty much the whole band, during "Seguiras Criticando," a salsa tune with a heavy afrobeat coda from their last album Biónico:

Of course, we were here to celebrate the CD release of La Verdad, which has been gaining tons of favorable press at the national level. This month, Bio Ritmo is featured in vinyl collectors' mag Wax Poetics (in an issue with Eddie Palmieri on the cover), on the radio on PRI's The World, garnered a great album review on, and is currently charting #4 on CMJ's World Music Chart.

Bio Ritmo @ Motorco  10.14.11

I'm writing my own story now on the band's undulating 20-year career curve, and what makes these Richmond heroes so special. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Durham Academy Fiesta Latina FRIDAY (10/28)

UNC Charanga Carolina and Colombian harpist Pavelid Castañeda will headline once again this year at Durham Academy's Fiesta Latina. The PUBLIC IS INVITED to attend this free festival in honor of Hispanic Heritage month. Live music and dance program runs from 7:30-10:00 pm, and food trucks will be selling food out front from 6:30 pm on. Location: Brumley Performing Arts Building at Durham Academy Lower School, 3501 Ridge Rd (corner of Pickett), Durham. Admission: FREE.

Charanga Carolina has exciting news; its studio album La Familia has hit the streets. The CD represents a milestone for the collaborative student/community ensemble, founded c. 2003 by Dr. David F. García. The 11 tracks, which include homages to Los Van Van, Arsenio Rodriguez, La Sonora Ponceña, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto and Tito Puente, can be sampled at the Charanga's revernation page. To purchase the CD, for a $12 donation to UNC's Department of Music, send your check and return address to: David Garcia, UNC Department of Music, Hill Hall CB#3320, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-3320.

charanga violins, 10/2010
Charanga Carolina at this time last year--October 2010

This year, Charanga alum Andy Kleindienst has taken over direction of the group. The ensemble's first public performance was a few weeks ago, so this semester's new recruits should be pretty warmed up for the DA concert.

Andy Kleindienst with Atiba Rorie, Orquesta GarDel
Andy Kleindienst playing trombone with Orquesta GarDel in August

I last saw Pavelid Castañeda a few weeks ago at a private concert at UNC for the university's Board of Visitors. He was part of a very exciting program, put together by Lisa Beavers at the Center for the Study of the American South, which brought together 3 local masters of ancient stringed instruments from three distinct global traditions: Pavelid on Latin American folk harp, Naji Hilal on oud, and Diali Cissokho on kora. For the artists, presenters and myself, it was an intense exchange of music and information; future collaborations are already being planned, so keep on the lookout for that!

Pavelid Castañeda Florez
Pavelid Castañeda @ The ArtsCenter in June 2010

Pavelid always wows audiences with his percussive, rhythmic style and unusual arrangements for harp, ranging from traditional folk music to salsa and rock, and his own fiery compositions. He is about to release an original solo album, currently in co-production with his son, the prominent jazz harpist Edmar Castaneda.

The Durham Academy Fiesta Latina is coordinated annually by Bela Kussin, and realized with the help of many volunteers at the school. It's not only meant for the cultural enrichment of students and staff, but also as a gift for the community at large. Brumley is a beautiful new arts facility, with great auditorium seating as well as room for dancing, which will be encouraged during Charanga's sets. Come out and celebrate Latino culture and the arts in our community!

Monday, October 24, 2011

BREAKING: La Bruja @ Duke TONIGHT (10/24)

BREAKING: Just learned that Nuyorican spoken word artist and rapper La Bruja, aka Caridad de la Luz, performs at a student-sponsored event on the Duke campus tonight. It's FREE and OPEN to the public, and there has been a last minute venue change. The following information was confirmed for me by the artist today at 3 pm:

La Bruja performs tonight, Monday (10/24) from 6-7 pm, followed by discussion until 8 pm, in the McLendon Tower, 5th floor media room. This building is part of the new Keohane Quad on Duke's West Campus (see map here).

Here's a 2009 article about La Bruja in the New York Times. She's performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and on HBO's Def Poetry Jam.


La Bruja artist webpage
La Bruja on Facebook

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goran Bregovic @ Duke CONCERT REVIEW

Goran Bregovic BLEW THE ROOF off Page Auditorium Friday night (10/14). My reflections boiled down to this, a review essay which I originally wrote for another blog, but which finds its home here instead:

Goran Bregovic: Unplugged, and All Together Now

by Sylvia Pfeiffenberger

The name of Goran Bregovic’ “Wedding and Funeral Orchestra” is part satirical—a grand joke on the part of the perfectionist, prankster, film composer and former rock star—but it also promises a return to our unamplified, tribal human past, a time when social rituals were marked with big gatherings and live music, and individuals were suspended, not in ethereal social networks, but in the gelatinous broth of clan, nation, and religion.

Of course, there’s a dark side to this sort of nostalgia: tribalism and nationalism have exacted a high price from human societies, and none have paid more dearly or more regularly than the Balkan region, and former Yugoslav republics, from whence Bregovic hails. Sarajevo, at the borderline between Catholics and Muslims, Jews and Gypsies, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, is “a place where nothing is really pure. It’s always a mix,” says Bregovic in an interview with his publicist. Centuries of war have shaped the “small” regional culture of the Balkans into a sort of “Frankenstein,” he says. In the 1990s, war again forced the retired rocker into Parisian exile, which proved a stepping stone to creating his own global form of folk music, attuned to the large and small screens of the IT age.

The listening experience we had in Page Auditorium Friday night (10/14/11) was unlike anything you can hear outside of a church, a classical concert hall, or a movie theater nowadays. Who’s got the budget to commission composers and produce large ensembles of live instrumental and vocal musicians anymore? Only institutions that run on charity donations, and Hollywood. Bregovic’s orchestra was actually a multicultural collective, made up of four sections: a string quartet, an all-male choir, the Bulgarian vocal duo the Radkova sisters, and a Gypsy vocalist with brass band. Each unit operated independently at times but cooperated as a seamless unit, like a four-chambered, polyphonic heart. The some-time soundtrack composer ‘conducted’ while facing the audience, from his guitarist’s chair, one hand frequently aloft to signal timing, entrances and phrasing. It was like hearing a miniature Mahler symphony, blown through Surround Sound.

Photo (c) by Andrew Shpak; courtesy of Pomegranate Arts.

Bregovic built up the evening’s set like a cinematic-depressive fairy tale, an episodic ride that vacillated between drunken exhilaration and island-of-the-damned sobriety. Capturing our attention from the get go, Bregovic mumbled a few introductory words, then let single narrators (guitar, clarinet, violin) lock in our attention. Just as we were getting comfortable in our seats, the Gypsy brass band announced itself from the back of the hall and marched down the aisles, horns blazing, waking our senses in a visceral rush. Suddenly, in that moment, we became one audience: the polyphonic heart had found a body. For the rest of the night, waves of sound flooded us with animal joy, and uneven folk meters jogged our human jelly like a friendly reminder of mortality.

Bregovic clearly relished the role of conductor, and ultimately his instrument was us, the kinetic collective that responded to his every direction, be it to clap and rally to our feet, or to hush and listen to his next bit of storytelling. The ruckus was loudest in the cheap seats, but firm fan footholds were scattered throughout the room, as bodies swayed and hands danced in the air, Mediterranean-style. Shouts in Slavic languages rang out occasionally; next to me, a Turkish couple mouthed the words to Bregovic’ Emir Kuristica soundtracks. Did they understand the words? “Not really--it’s close to us,” they shrugged, electric grins lighting up their faces. On the other side of me, a couple of Duke alums, here simply because they had bought $5 tickets to every show of the season right before they graduated, radiated the same ecstasy.

They say that conductors have one of the highest job satisfaction ratings, but that role is typically dictatorial. Yet, while directing sound with hairline precision, Bregovic brings something fundamentally rebellious to the role. This goes back to his roots as a teenage bass player in the band “Bijelo Dugme” (“White Button”). Under Communist rule in the former Yugoslavia, just playing rock music at all was an act of rebellion, and Bregovic learned how to walk the line of cultural resistance without getting thrown in jail. Back then, backed by a rock band, he might have parodied Marshal Tito’s uniform on stage; now, in a silky cream suit and backed by his ethnically diverse orchestra, he delivered impure rants about sex and dying, and antifascist ditties such as the Italian partisan hymn “Bella Ciao.” Bregovic rejected classical music training as a child, when he was forced to take violin; today, he says, he chooses to play with folk musicians out of the same sense of rebellion against formal high culture. With rock star excess, Bregovic kept one-upping his encores, announcing, “it would be a shame to go to bed after that.”

Through the aperture of the Balkans’ “small culture,” where impurities are a virtue, Bregovic has created a sense of global belonging out of his own exile and displacement, genetically modifying folk music so that it feels like our pop and movie music. It’s not even a metaphor at times, such as when Bregovic plays zydeco covers and tunes he wrote for Iggy Pop. Is that breakneck Balkan number smuggling a ska beat, ‘50s rock and roll, or a Mexican quebradita? It’s a question that doesn’t really need answering, because Bregovic has hit the folk/pop dancebeat button in a way that feels universal, or rather: in a way that feels local, in every language and cultural tradition. With the vision of a film director, Bregovic reconnects us with the unamplified roots of his particular folk cultures, making space for us to feel social connection through “big,” live music in an increasingly digital world.

As it turns out, the musicians on stage had been only intermediaries in Bregovic' raucous ode to sex and death; the human orchestra was us.

“You’re a beautiful audience. Good night.”

Photo (c) by Mikhail Ognev; courtesy of Pomegranate Arts.

Regina Carter in Raleigh TONIGHT (10/22)

Is there any Triangle stage that features black women artists more regularly, and in greater proportion to their overall programming, than Arts NC State? In recent memory, they've presented Buika, Esperanza Spalding and Emeline Michel; already this season, they introduced me to the exquisite blueswoman Ruthie Foster. Yet to come in November: Ivorienne singer/dancer Dobet Gnahore (11/4), and local cellist/singer Shana Tucker (11/11).

TONIGHT (10/22): Jazz violinist and MacArthur "Genius" grant winner Regina Carter performs at Stewart Theatre. Her latest album, Reverse Thread, integrates African folk tunes with jazz, in a band featuring kora and accordion. Tickets run $28-32 for general public, with NCSU staff and student discounts available.

Our good friend John Brown, director of Duke's jazz program, leads a pre-show discussion at 7 pm. The discussion is free and open to the public in the Walnut Room, in Talley Student Center.


Saturday, October 22, 8 pm: Regina Carter @ Stewart Theatre

Regina Carter artist website

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Africa Calling: Angelique Kidjo SUNDAY (10/16)

Afropop Amazon: Angelique Kidjo (photo: Andrzej Pilarczyk)

There's been such a wealth of great African music in town this month. Although I had to miss Bassekou Kouyate at Duke this Friday, I did this preview for dP's blog The Thread.

I did get a chance to see most of the Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS project at UNC that same evening. What a dedicated group of musicians, student actors, and volunteers. To mention only some is to slight all, but the vocalists in particular are so wonderful; I'm now a huge Lizzy Ross fan. To read more about the Mau a Malawi concept album, see my Indy story about it here. To visit the Stories of AIDS webpage, go here, where you can download the album for a donation to the arts-based charity Talents of the Malawian Child. It's for a good cause, yes; but just as importantly, it's great original music that deserves to be widely heard.

As a preview to that evening, Peter Mawanga, the Malawian co-producer of Mau of Malawi, gave a sweet, free show at The Station on Wednesday prior. Some of the guys from Kairaba backed him up, as well as others from the show. I got to get a good look and listen to Peter's "Jozi," his custom-made South African guitar. He and Mau a Malawi collaborator Andrew Finn Magill are still actively songwriting, and they played one song that they had written only 2 days before, dedicated to "those women who go through so much," in Peter's words, "before being forced to sell their bodies on the streets in a country that is ravaged by HIV and AIDS. This song is for those ladies." How rare and moving it was to hear a man speak about sex workers with such compassion; I felt like I was understanding the song, although the lyrics were in Chichewa. That IS the univeral power of music to communicate beyond language, a gift Peter has in great measure.

Kairaba played an opening set, intense as usual; one hears them growing in confidence, as they are about to head into the studio this week to record a first album. Kairaba's spiritual head, Diali Cissokho, always wins a crowd. His euphoric moment in the show this time came when he (somehow) balanced his kora upside down, and still managed to played it. I didn't have the stamina to take in Kairaba and Toubab Krewe out at Shakori Hills last weekend, but from what I hear, Diali did a surprise, walk-on vocal with one of Toubab Krewe's songs--the instrumental just happened to be a song he knew from Senegal. I wish I could have been there to see THAT. Lesson learned--always expect the unexpected from this charismatic griot of Carrboro.

The African music streak ain't over. Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo hits UNC's Memorial Hall this Sunday (10/16). Here's my Indy pick writeup about her. I saw Kidjo a few years back, touring with Santana at Walnut Creek. The global pop diva still commands respect as a strong voice from, and for, Africa. I was really stunned by this bare, unplugged duo performance that shows just how strong that voice is:


Angelique Kidjo @ UNC Memorial Hall, Sunday (10/16) at 7: 30 pm; tickets $10 (student) to $39 price range.


Listen to Bonjour Africa, Sundays 4-6 PM on WNCU 90.7 FM with host Bouna Ndiaye

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shakori Fall Preview: Oct 6-9

Where to begin? This fall's Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival lineup is fitting to blow my mind: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Toubab Krewe, Rosie Ledet, Bela Fleck, Hobex, Kairaba, Peter Lamb & The Wolves, The Brand New Life, Saludos Compay, Locos Por Juana, Preston Frank--just when you thought I'd be jaded, I've got Shakori fever like never before.

Two artists back-to-back at the Cabaret Tent on Saturday that I haven't heard, but hope to catch this time around:

Lakota John, a young, dobro bottleneck slide guitarist (he's 14) from Robeson County, who is half-Lumbee and half-Lakota. He is one of MusicMaker's Next Generation blues artists. I met him and his father down in Pembroke when I was researching this recent tale for the Indy about Dark Water Rising.

Leyla McCalla, a banjoist/cellist from New Orleans who is also a MusicMaker Next Gen artist. She reportedly plays jazz standards, originals, and the occasional Haitian folk song.

As often happens at Shakori Hills, musicians from different genres get together and mix it up. At the last Shakori festival in April, members of Orquesta GarDel gave a salsa workshop on the porch, and some oldtime fiddlers came up and jammed. Here's that video, to whet your appetite for whatever may happen this weekend (Thurs.-Sun., October 6-9):


Monday, October 3, 2011

Kairaba @ Haw River Ballroom (9/14)

Kairaba's September 14 show at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw was a benefit for women's farm coops in the Central African Republic. If you're looking for backstory, my feature about Diali Cissokho & Kairaba appeared in the Indy recently.

Diali Cissokho and Austin McCall


It was a great show and event, with other presentations by artists and community organizers. This was one of my favorite moments, when Diali and John Westmoreland exchanged musical dialogue between the kora and guitar:

Jonathan Henderson and Will Ridenour

Here's a montage of two more song clips from the concert:

It's great to see this band continue to thrive, I can't even keep up with all their gigs lately. Good news: they plan to visit Diali's home in Senegal and play some shows there in December.


Kariaba 9/14 @ Haw River Ballroom

Catching Up With The Beast (10/1)

The Beast and Chit Nasty played a birthday party at Kings last Saturday (10/1). Chit Nasty is loud and funky as hell, with a Rick James meets Little Richard vibe.

The Beast @ Kings

That must've set the tone, because The Beast was a little raunchier than usual. Here's one of their newer songs, "Just Do It":

The Beast

The Beast @ Kings
Beast fans with The Bieb @ Kings


Remember the earthquake? That night (8/23), The Beast did this live improv with special guests, a biweekly affair that happens second and fourth Tuesdays at Jack Sprat in Chapel Hill. The next "aLive Tuesday" happens 10/10, with special guest TBA.

SAMPLE OF THE WEEK: Astor Piazzola meets an earthquake theme.

Sitting in: The Brand New Life's Seth Barden (bass) and Walter Fancourt (saxophone).

Stephen Coffman on drums, Pierce Freelon on the mic, Eric Hirsh on piano/ keyboard/ samples.

Shana Tucker @ NCMA (9/2)

Shana Tucker gave a gift to the North Carolina Museum of Art on September 2: a free concert to lure visitors in for the last day of the exhibition, "30 Americans." Attendance that night broke records, according to Museum program director George Holt.

Shana Tucker @ NCMA 9.2.11

Her quartet featured Mark Wells, Peter Kimosh, and Stephen Coffman. Here is her lovely take on Nora Jones' "Wish I Could":

Young people were especially delighted with Shana's big finish: a New Orleans version of "You Are My Sunshine." Here's a montage of the dancing that ensued.


Here's Shana with a trio, performing the same tune, in a different style. With Mark Wells, piano, and Brevan Hampden, percussion, here's her Latin version of "You Are My Sunshine" one recent evening at Brasa Brasilian Steakhouse:

Raleigh Rally: Hopscotch

This was the first year I really applied myself to delve into Hopscotch, which transformed Raleigh into a downtown funzone the second weekend of September. It was really fun to walk the distance between venues and to see a ton of people on the streets, popping in and out of clubs. I'd definitely say (as a Durhamite) that there's been an uptick since in my comfort levels with going out in Raleigh; Spark.con's freebies the following weekend served as a booster shot.


SATURDAY NIGHT @ POUR HOUSE: With an all-club wristband, I milled about for awhile seeing various indie phenoms, and slowly figured out (DUH) that I probably needed to go to the Pour House, where it was all horn bands. I didn't manage to see that full lineup, but heard fantastic things about Fight The Big Bull (out of Richmond), and my good pals Peter Lamb and The Wolves. I arrived during the set of D-town Brass, a band with quite a few guys in it I know from thar and yonder, but had somehow never heard before. It was experimental and groove-based, kind of nerd-funky, and reminded me of movie scores. The sheer size of that horn-line is devastating, both as an audio and a visual. Orchestral in scope, the front line was like a Noah's ark of trombones, trumpets, saxophones, and clarinets. I'm not sure what all percussion they had back there, but congas for sure, marimbas maybe. Sonorous and intense.

D-town Brass
D-town Brass

Budos Band
Budos Band

It started to really fill up as the clouds gathered for Budos Band. These guys brought an unrelenting Latin fusion groove all night. Hopscotchers pitched glowsticks on stage--landing right in the bell of the bari sax player's horn at some points--and instead of getting pissed, they seemed revved by the friendly dose of aggression. They rained glowsticks, and powerful Latin funk beats, right back at us. I really liked Bobby the conga/bongo player's setup and slap style, idiosyncratic and well adapted. "We're the black sheep [of the Daptone label]," these guys told me later, "but people like us, so they can't get rid of us."

Pour House Hopscotch 2011
Raleighites raise a beer to Hopscotch

Sunday, October 2, 2011

CMF: The Remix

Carrboro Music Festival, you are always so beautiful. My review comes a week late, but I've spent all that time soaking in the good energy that overflowed into the streets last Sunday (9/27).

Carrboro Music Fest 2011
Celtic Tim Smith

Tim Smiths @ CMF 2011

Tim Smiths @ CMF 2011
Reggae Tim Smith

Everyone has their own CMF, whether one targets bands to see, or just wanders the 25 in- and outdoor venues for hours without a plan. I did a little of both; saw both Tim Smiths get together (that could have ruptured space/time, but we were lucky), and found myself strangely attracted to bluegrass and oldtime music. It's all that fingerpicking and harmony.

Rough Cut @ CMF 2011
Rough Cut

Gravy Boys @ CMF 2011
The Gravy Boys

Gravy Boys @ CMF 2011

The Gravy Boys are high on that list. They practice something that old-time salsa and Latin bands used to do, a phenomenon I call "three men on a mic." There's something sweet about that ear-tuned harmony and close attention to group dynamic. Sing it for me, Gravy Boys:

Looking at their calendar, I see The Gravy Boys are coming to The Blue Note Grill on Bus. 15-501 in Durham, this Thursday, Oct. 6--a free show, from 7-9 pm.

These two videos capture that freewheeling, Weaver Street spirit. I am informed that the hula hooper accompanying Tim's band is Julia Hartsell Crews:

Tim Smith Band

Climb Jacob's Ladder

It was my first time seeing Climb Jacob's Ladder, a band I've never been able to figure out how it sounds just from reading descriptions. I can see why: extremely eclectic and socially conscious, the band alludes to Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, and other 70s landmarks, but never stays in one place for very long.

Saludos Compay at Tyler's Parking Lot has become an 8 pm tradition. I don't have any photos or videos (it was dark by then) but a good time was had, as always.

REVIEW: Caribe Vibe @ Cantina South 10/1

Two things I've noticed about the "international" party scene lately: a) it seems to be migrating more and more to Raleigh, and b) the names for some of the new parties sound like new brands in Trojan's expanding product line (i.e., "Latinsations," "Latinvibe," etc.).

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina 10.1.11

New local sextet Caribe Vibe, co-led by Billy Marrero and Andres Leon, seems like the perfect band for this newer, "hotter" Raleigh scene. On just their third gig out in public last night, they brought an agile and unique sound to the newly remodeled Cantina South on Glenwood. Breaking away from either "salsa" or "Latin jazz" formulas, the creative ensemble is making pure dance music that is relaxed, sophisticated and just a little outside the box. Also, absolutely perfect for relatively intimate club spaces. When a sextet doesn't feel like a logistical compromise, but an opportunity for musical creativity, you know you have something special.

So, what's different? For a half-Boricua band--Alberto Carrasquillo (trumpet), Nelson Delgado (vocal/ bongo), and Billy Marrero (congas)--it also sports a heavy Venezuelan angle: co-leader Andres Leon on the piano, and his Maracaibo cohort Josue Bracho on drumset. American Paul Dobelstein plays electric bass.

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina  10.1.11

That drumset (in place of timbales) sets Caribe Vibe apart from other salsa bands, giving it a jazzy versatility and a rock-heavy downbeat reminiscent of Cuban timba. Yet unlike most Latin jazz combos, Caribe Vibe keeps vocals and dancefloor appeal always foregrounded. Nelson Delgado, also a lead vocalist with Charanga Carolina and Orquesta GarDel, as well as a percussionist for many years in Carnavalito, maximizes both talents in the sextet--as sonero and bongocero.

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina 10.1.11

In repertoire, they have a similar range to Billy and Andres's large ensemble, Orquesta K'Che: salsas, son/cha cha chas, merengues and cumbias. But even on well-worn standards, Caribe Vibe isn't treading water; with drumset and electric bass on hand, "Oye Como Va" can really plunge off the deep end toward rock. On "Moliendo Cafe," a classic pianist's showcase, Andres played a solo which is one of his best I've heard:

Caribe Vibe showed its own personality with two boleros that the group adapted into exciting salsa arrangements. This one, "La Barca" (Luis Miguel) got my blood up, with instrumental soloing on piano and trumpet:

Dancers loved this show; the sound (mixing and volume) was excellent. The venue has mixed bar- and restaurant-style seating, and a moderately sized wood dancefloor. Door cover was $5. I would definitely hit this band/venue up again.

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina  10.1.11