Lucid Culture


Next Stop, Zanzibar: Hold Onto Your Seat!

Sounds of Taraab played Barbes last night. What an amazing band. It shouldn’t be long before this dynamic ensemble starts selling out big concert halls. In the meantime, the packed house in the back room here got to witness an incandescent, frequently transcendent performance. Sounds of Taraab plays East African coastal music, a blend of Levantine dance music and Indian film themes set to African rhythms, sung in Kiswahili. Tonight’s performance highlighted songs with a haunting, slinky, snakecharmer feel along with a few more distinctly African numbers, including a warm, passionate concluding number whose melody echoed what could have been the central hook in a mid-60s American soul music hit. Sudanese vocalist Alsarah held the audience captive with her effortlessly soulful vocals, inducing chills on the few occasions when she went full tilt, sailing into a riveting upper register. Accordionist Ismail Butera is the lead player in this unit, stealing the show with his wildly intense accordion work, a mix of sizzling runs all over the keyboard and big, expansive chords that he would use to build to a screaming crescendo. Oud player Haig Magnookian began several of the songs solo, showing off his dazzling speed and expert command of Arab modalities. Violinist Michael Hess added to the intoxicating mix of textures when he wasn’t being called on for an ethereal, atmospheric solo, and the two percussionists – one, a woman, who played a ceramic jug on one song, and later delivered a sizzling, sultry vocal on a Tanzanian love ballad – kept the audience swaying and clapping along. What a great discovery, and what a treat to witness live. Don’t miss the chance to see them.

And while you may be used to being dismissed or dissed outright at other clubs, consider what happened to the Lucid Culture crew last night at Barbes. Though the place was packed and the waitress had dozens of drink orders to fill, when she noticed that our table was wobbly, she stopped right in the middle of what she was doing and found something to stabilize it. She didn’t have to do that. But she did. Which was really cool. If a waitress at the Living Room noticed you had a wobbly table, she’d probably deliberately set your drinks on it so that they’d spill, and then she’d berate you for anything that landed on the floor.

April 5, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment