Monday, November 17, 2008

Mama Afrika Tribute @ LPR 11/16/08

Ok, so I hadn’t heard of Miriam Makeba until now. That seems to happen a lot. I was either busy studying for 9 years and didn’t get out as much or I stay away from large venues or I just got into jazz in more recent years or something I haven’t thought of. Regardless, I knew this tribute show was the place to be and it would be a good way to find out about Miriam and her greatness. I know she’s great based on the lamentations of her recent passing going around the internet. I also realized this is a good opportunity to see some great people play I may never get to see otherwise.

The ticket/donation was only $20 and the entire proceeds will be donated to the Sauti Yetu: Center for African Women in Miriam’s honor. I think they said it’s for African women in NYC, but I’m not 100% sure.

I got there at just about 8 and it was pretty full. They had the jazz setup, with communal tables and chairs, and this time there were many people standing around the perimeter. I knew I wasn’t going to any African thing and sitting, so I stayed back and didn’t even try to see if there was 1 seat left.

A DJ was spinning while the room continued to fill up. After a while, they started playing music that I assume was Miriam’s, giving me an idea of what she was about. The thing that kept coming up for me was Nina Simone, in her later period. I saw Doug Wamble with Steven Bernstein at Jazz Gallery a while back and they did a Nina Simone song. The way Steven looked when they mentioned it inspired me to run over to J&R the next day and get myself a 3 cd greatest hits type set to explore her music a bit. I preferred the very soulful stuff in her later period the most. That’s what Miriam reminded me of.

It started at around 8:37 with a clip of Miriam on film singing. Then it went on, but the DVD just stopped. It was unclear if they meant to show us more and there was a technical difficulty, or if it was intended to stop there. It was more likely the former as it took a little bit for the next part to start.

There was a lot of very soulful singing, and some great jazz/world/blues type music. It was awesome. I was loving it.

People kept talking about the album and tour “Graceland”. I find out she was really the 1st African woman singer that made it. She touched all of Africa, not just South Africa where she’s from. She came to the US and started playing The Village Vanguard. She also played a lot at The Village Gate. I found that out when they had Art, the old owner of The Village Gate there to speak. I found out from Harry Belefonte how he saw her sing and when he met her he told her she’s awesome, but what we really need is for her to sing African-inspired music, not American jazz. He said he would help her, and he did.

Then, after that, as if it isn’t enough, out comes Paul Simon to do 3 songs and tell us a little about the Graceland tour with Miriam. I was shocked and never thought I’d ever see him, especially in such a small space. That was pretty cool.

Later, Randy Weston came out and blew me away. I don’t think he was playing with his usual trio, but I do think it was one his songs, or something I know anyway. It was phenomenal. I was very into it.

Then, Steve Turre came out and did a shell solo that was great.

I think there was one more jazz number with a bunch of people at about 11:15 or so. I left during that since it was the last tune and I was pretty happy.

I’ve been listening to a few things on youtube of her. I think I’ll have to pick up some recordings for my collection.

It was beautiful to see all the artists she inspired and the tribute was lovely and very tastefully done.

Randy Weston
Blue Nefertiti (Celia of Les Nubians)
Gino Sitson
Wunmi Bakithi & Robbi Khumalo
Francis Mbappe
Jacques Schwarz Bart
Tony Cedras
Jojo Kuo
Loide Jorge
Bill Salter
Leopoldo Fleming

Special Guests:
Remarks by Harry Belafonte & Art D'Lugoff
Plus South African DJ Eddie Ed

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