Bela Fleck's Africa Project World Premiere
My Wife and I had the pleasure of attending the Premiere Show of Bela Fleck's Africa Project Tour
Here are the particulars:
Bela Fleck's Africa Project,
A Collaboration with Amazing Musicians
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The Colonial Theatre , Pittsfield Ma.
Bela Fleck (USA) Banjo/Host
Anania Ngolia (Tanzania) Thumb Piano/Harmonica/Vocals
John Kitime (Tanzanian) Guitar/Vocals
D'Gary & Mario (Madagascar) Guitar/Vocal Percussion/Vocal
Casey Driessen (USA) Fiddle
Vusi Mahalasela (South Africa) Guitar/Vocals
Toumani Diabate ( Mali ) Kora/Vocals
This was an amazing show all the way around. The Colonial is an outstandingly beautiful restored theartre
and our seats were First Balcony Front Row Center. I must give Thanks to my wife Karen for shopping
early and getting these tickets as my Christmas present. So here we are great seats great theatre and
Bela Fleck.What could be better? Well for openers this not the Flecktones(not that that would be a bad thing)
This is sort of a companion tour with the Documentary Film "Throw Down Your Heart" about Bela's journey to
Africa to explore the banjo's roots. Wait it gets better! This is the World Premiere of this particular group and they
only all got together as a group yesterday.
Bela Fleck opened with a number and spoke a little about the tour and the people was about to introduce us to.
Then he turned the over to John Kitime and Anania Ngolia on Guitar and Thumb Piano. Beautiful music and
although they sang in native African languages you could still feel the emotion. After two numbers Bela returned
and asked what became his catch phrase for the evening "You Like". The full house always responded with a
resound YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then Bela joins them for a bit of jamming. This seemed to always contain a duel with
one or more of the musicians. The one noticeable flub in any of these duels was by Bela at the end of a very
fast run where he not quite make the final note. He shrugged it for and everybody had a little chuckle.
Next came D'Gary and Mario pretty much the same scenario as before. D'Gary uses unique tunings and
Mario plays a shaker made of a tin can broken glass and a stick. You would not believe the music he
makes with this simple instrument .Again Bela asks "You Like" At this point he brings out Casey Driessen
to add some fiddle to the mix.
And let me take a moment to apoligize for the length of this post. The was truely an amazing evening.
OK Rest Room and back to my seat before the second half.
Once again Mr Fleck opens with a solo number some talk and of course "You Like"
Next comes Visu Mahlasela from South Africa. Musician Activist very intelligent and entertaining man.
He sang song in Zulu about apartheid and even through the language barrier you could feel the sorrow
and anger. Well the point where he shook his fist helped the anger get across. A little more of Bela and
some jamming and on to Toumani Diabate from Mali.
Diabate plays Kora a 21 string harp like instrument made from a large gourd. The music is handed down
Father to Son and he claims to trace his heritage 71 generations. Very aural sounds. I found myself very
attracted to the bass sound which was low a sweet contrasting with the higher strings. There was also
percussive qualities to his playing.
The incredible duel Fleck and Diabate have been touring together and the easy give and take between
the to men only added to the music.
You can probably guess what's next.
Yes the All Star Jam. What we have all been waiting for. It was well worth the wait and it was a pleasant
wait at that.
The crowd gave a rousing ovation and refuse to leave without an encore and Bela and Friends obliged
with what Fleck called a "Space Jam"
All in all I found Bela Fleck to be a truly gracious performer and the music at center stage.
I would advice any of you who can take in this tour to do so.
I found the evening to be enlightening,inspiring, and just a pleasure.