Do not miss what is likely to be one of the shows of the year, Africa Fete ’99, when it rolls into town for an engagement at the House of Blues. This pan-African revue features Senegal’s outstanding Baaba Maal Band, the legendary “big voice” singer from Zimbabwe, Oliver Mtukudzi, making his United States debut, and the historic American-African supergroup Kulanjan, a collaboration between blues master Taj Mahal and Malian kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate and six of his fellow musicians.
This is the sixth season that Africa Fete has visited these shores, expanding a tradition that began in Paris 20 years ago when Mamadou Konte, an African immigrant living in Paris, put together a festival of music and dance showcasing African culture. In 1993 Island Records founder Chris Blackwell got the idea to promote the extraordinary amount of high-quality African pop making its way to the world through French studios and record labels by mounting a touring version of the festival for America. Though the Parisian festival has been a consistently huge success, Blackwell had to abandon the American version after years of heavy losses. The festival was revived last summer with a hefty dose of corporate sponsorship from American Express and the Kennedy Center.
Baaba Maal’s music reflects the post-modernist blending of local African indigenous music with the sounds of western pop heard mostly via radio. Baaba Maal, who is from Podor, Senegal, writes evocatively about African people but is clearly influenced by soul, blues and R&B singers including James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Etta James. His critically-acclaimed Nomad Soul album contains such gems as “Koni,” a folk tale about a young Fulani girl who escapes an arranged marriage with the help of her brother, and the moving plea “Mbolo (the Crowd).”
“You people sitting in the crowd,” he sings, “Listen, listen to me for a while. We are all the same family. We are all related to Adam and Eve.”
Oliver Mtukudzi, though not well-known outside of southern Africa, is a huge star in Zimbabwe, where he goes under the nickname “Tuku” and has released 35 original albums during a 20-year solo career. He started out in 1977 as part of Wagon Wheels, a group which also featured Thomas Mapfumo. In 1980 he recorded the historic Africa album in celebration of Zimbabwe’s independence. Tuku is also a star in Zimbabwe’s fledgeling film industry.
Kulanjan has recorded an impressive album that features some high-level instrumental exchanges between Mahal and Diabate. Mahal has been searching for an African music version of the Rosetta Stone, and in this thrilling exchange it sounds like he’s translated it.
Up, Up and Away
The New Orleans Balloon Extravaganza, sponsored by OffBeat, hits the Fair Grounds August 27-29 for what promises to be a fun weekend of hot-air ballooning, live music and related festivities. A competition among 40 of the 100 top-ranked balloonists in the Balloon Federation Association (BFA) for cash prizes will take place all three days. The weekend will also feature the first New Orleans Musicians’ Barbecue Cook-off, a benefit for Children’s Hospital. Kermit Ruffins, Herman Ernest, Rockin’ Jake, Johnny Sansone and Brint Anderson are among the musical cooks who will hold a meat-cutting session and maybe even jam on the side. Ruffins, Anderson and Sansone are also scheduled to perform on one of the three stages that will be running all weekend. Irma Thomas, Terrance Simien, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Little Rascals Brass Band, Joe Krown Organ Combo, John Mooney, Johnny Angel and the Swinging Demons, Bobby Cure and the Summertime Blues, Gary Hirstius and Day 7 with Theresa Andersson, Hunter Hayes, B.B. Majors, Al Jackson and Luther Kent are all expected to perform.
King Sheds Dreads!!!
New Orleans bluesman Chris Thomas King had to cancel his gigs through the end of August in order to complete shooting his part for the upcoming Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou. The screenplay, written by Joel and Ethan Coen, recasts Homer’s Odyssey in Mississippi during the early 1930s and features King as delta blues great Tommy Johnson. King cut his trademark dreads for the role. The film also stars George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Nelson, Holly Hunter and John Goodman.
“Clooney and Turturro escape from a chain gang and pick me up hitch-hiking at the crossroads,” King explains. “We drive around in this 1928 Ford; they’re running from the law and I’m running from the devil. John Goodman plays the cyclops. He’s got this patch over one eye, he’s the bad guy.”
King is releasing his newest album, Me, My Guitar, and the Blues, on the Internet only. “I talked to several labels about putting it out, but I decided I want to sell it exclusively on line,” he said. “It’s available locally at selected record stores, but for national and international distribution I’m selling it on line.”
The standard CD version of Me, My Guitar, and the Blues can be purchased for $17.99, which includes shipping and handling, from P.O. Box 5239, NOLA 70152-2395.
Knocking Down Manny’s Door
The Radiators played a special run of concerts to close out Manny’s Car Wash, the New York blues and roots music club that specialized in promoting many Louisiana bands during its run through the 1990s. In the tradition of the many special events the Rads have played over the years, the band tailored a number of tunes to fit the occasion. On opening night, subtitled “Life Ain’t Easy,” the band opened with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” changing the lyrics to “Knocking Down Manny’s Door.” On “Fuck Da Landlord” night they played a special tribute, “Papa Don’t Close That Speakeasy Down.” In the end the “Manny’s Carwash Massacre” would not have been complete without a Hendrix-inspired “Manny’s Depression.”
The Louisiana Original Music Festival Wants You!
The Louisiana Original Music Festival is looking for artists, composers and lyricists to participate in the 1999 LOMF, scheduled to be held in Baton Rouge on Saturday, October 23.
“Our music industry generated $2.4 billion as an industry last year,” said LOMF Producer Henry Turner Jr. “We feel that those numbers can be escalated if everyone develops something to sell.”
The festival offers several categories on the “Performer’s Registration Form,” including a cappella, alternative rock, blues, country, children’s, DJ, dance, funk, gospel, hard rock, hip-hop (Rap), jazz, new age, R&B, reggae, rock, pop, singer-songwriter, spoken word, zydeco and Cajun. No to mention: “Other.”
Check the following WEB sites for additional information: www.louisianamusic.org and www.icorp.net/flavor/
Save lives! Eat out on August 12!
On Thursday, August 12th, satisfying your appetite at one of 65 local restaurants will constitute an act of charity. That’s the day the NO/AIDS task force is holding its fourth annual “Dining For Life” fundraiser. Participating restaurants will donate 25% of their proceeds on August 12 to NO/AIDS. Over the past three years the project has raised more than $125,000. Restaurants include Adolfo’s, Allegro Bistro, Barataria, Basil Leaf, Bizou, Bywater BBQue, Café Atchafalaya, Café Degas, Charley G’s, China Blossom, Clover Grill, Deville Bistro, Dunaway’s, Feelings Café, Ghenghis Khan, La Peniche, Le Crepe Nanou, Lorenzo’s Pizzeria, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, Mama Rosa’s, Metro Bistro, Mona Lisa, Moon Wok, O’Henry’s, Old Dog New Trick, Pelican Club, Petunia’s, Quarter Scene, Santa Fe, Tavern On the Park, Vaquero’s and Vegas Tapas. “It’s no secret that we in New Orleans love to go out and eat,” said Patti Garcia, Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees. “This is truly a fun and socially entertaining means of helping a worthwhile cause.” Amen.
If I had a long flag along
The most patriotic performance at the Mermaid Lounge’s Independence Day Sweatfest was turned in Sunday afternoon by Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat. After a tight set of Stevie Ray Vaughn-ish surf by Mobile’s Fez, a battered white pick-up drove up John Churchill Chase with riders in the bed shooting roman candles in the afternoon dusk. As the truck neared the Mermaid, Quintron applied his distinct brand of damage to Ernie K. Doe’s “A Certain Girl.” Shirtless with trooper shades and a headband, Quintron looked a little like former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, wrestling his portable organ in the shadow of the Cotton Mill while the fireworks associates and the crowd that had gathered supplied all the appropriate calls and responses. When the song ended, a UFO-like firework levitated, buzzed, threw sparks and burned out, which, in the parlance of Sweatfest philosphers, is better than rusting.
Hi Ho, Dash Rip Rock, and Away!
Best wishes to Bill Davis as he rides on into the sunrise heading for Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a new meta-Dash Rip Rock career, perhaps as a country music songwriter? “Dash Rip Rock was basically me,” Davis asserted during a recent conversation, and it’s true that his restless creative genius was the driving conceptual force behind the band, but hard core fans knew the jig was up when bassist Ned “Hoaky” Hickel stopped being the Johnny Appleseed of Jaegermeister and went fishing for good. It’s hard to imagine how Davis’ wise-guy cleverness will fly in a city known for Bible publishing, lyric banality and endless remakes of the Eagles’ On the Border album, but one of his strengths has always been his ability to do impersonations. Maybe they won’t realize he’s making fun of them as he deadpans his way through Music Row. Fortunately Davis is not calling it quits altogether, and promises to give us the occasional DRR show down the road. God knows the world would be a lot less funny without Dash Rip Rock in it.
OffBeat’s Juke-Off celebrating the best juke boxes in town will showcase the finest local automatic disc-spinners in an upcoming article. Meanwhile readers can nominate their own choices for King Juke. Tell us where your favorite local jukebox resides and why you think it deserves recognition. Fax us at 504-944-4306 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dese, dems and doseRuben Blades makes his historic New Orleans debut at the House of Blues August 28 Check out the great New Orleans trumpeter Charlie Miller playing the first Sunday of every month from 6-8 pm at the Café Espresso in Borders in MetarieArgentinian saxophone colossus Gato Barbieri plays Bally’s Casino August 6. Dr. John resumes local office hours at Tip’s Uptown August 28The Dirty Dozen Brass Band does a cameo appearance on the excellent new album from Widespread Panic, ‘Til the Medicine Takes.