Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors program has outdone itself this year. I caught 3 shows, and was knocked out by all of them. Before I vanish to parts unknown for a summer hiatus, I’ll share a few highlights, like cast members Sahr Ngaujah and Abena Koomson from Fela!, the Broadway show, singing “Sorrow, Tears, and Blood” backed by the Kronos Quartet…
Red Hot + FELA LIVE! (July 24)
The result was subdued, but interesting, definitely a first, though one might have done with more fire from Kronos, given the subject. Not to worry, though, much fire was at the ready. The band Superhuman Happiness provided brassy, muscular backing for a series of guest spots taking Fela’s vibe and sometimes his songs, to all sorts of places, including into rock and hip hop. Among those who graced the stage: Baloji the amazing Congolese rapper, M1, Bajah, Angelique Kidjo (a surprise vocalist on “Lady”), and for 2 songs, the iconic Tony Allen. What a blowout night!
Caravan For Peace/Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa (July 31)
We met the traveling representatives of Mali’s Festival in the Desert at the Nuits d’Afrique festival in Montreal, so I won’t repeat. Suffice it to say, Tartit, Mamadou Kelly, and Imharhan were equally sublime, and even more grand on this fabulous stage.
New for us was Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Ghawa. Sahmaoui is the creator of the innovative Orchestre Nationale de Barbes, and he’s always been on the cutting edge of rootsy Moroccan music. This ensemble, incorporating kora (Cheikh Diarra), superb guitar (Herve Samb), killer grooves, and innovative arrangements, kicked out a terrific set, no mean feat after the deep spell cast by the Malians.
A Tale of Two Nations (August 1)
The history runs very deep on this one. Nation Beat, an inspirational Brooklyn-based band headed by percussionist and musical adventurer Scott Kettner, makes a connection between southern Americana (think New Orleans) and the funky, pageant-prone, percussion-rich music of northeast Brazil (think forro and maracatu). Kettner has a long relationship with Recife’s Maracatu Nacao Estrea Brilhante–as much a theatrical community organization as a musical ensemble. On this night, Kettner realized a long dream, bringing the Brazilians to Lincoln Center, performing with them with Nation Beat (most harmoniously and beautifully, I might add), AND, to boot, having Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, with Bo Dollis on hand, open up. Wow!
Maracatu Cacao Estrela Boudreaux…
At the end of this show, the Golden Eagles and Maracatu New York joined in, and the entire ensemble marched through the crowd dancing, drumming and singing. The action continues at Lincoln Center, but I don’t know what could top this. I’m heading for the beach, with all this ringing in my ears…