Saturday, July 14, 2007

Summer of Legacies

Wisconsin is truly having the summer of legacies this year, at least in the realm of African music. A few weeks ago I was able to see Seun, son of the great Fela Kuti, then my parents saw another of Fela's sons, Femi, at Summerfest in Milwaukee, and last night, Vieux Farka Toure graced the stage, son of the legendary African bluesman from Mali, Ali Farka Toure.

Vieux's show was the epitamy of a great summer performance. He played in the evening, as the sun went down behind him, on an outdoor stage, at a free Madison music festival, Le Fete de Marquette. Like his late father, Vieux and his band strummed and drummed rythmic African grooves with smiles on their faces. It was hard not to smile back. Vieux and his elderly guitar accompaniment played off of each other, back and forth, as the crowd fell into a dancing trance.

The Fete de Marquette is a French themed festival put on by the Williamson/Marquette neighborhood in Madison. That neighborhood, true to Madison, is quite progressive and somehow is able to pull off this festival as well as a couple other festivals throughout the year for the enjoyment of its residents and the entire city (Thomas Mapfumo is coming to the next festival in August). Food and beverage booths of local restuarants line the park that the festival is held in, and there is even a booth promoting the use of solar energy. Because of the time of year and theme of the festival, the biggest audience is simply adults with and and without children, as the students have vacated the city for the summer and the ones that remain, apparently have poor taste. I, along with a few others, had to represent for the youth.

Vieux energetically played songs from his only studio album before dedicating songs to his father and both of their birthplace, the small dusty town of Niafunke in northern Mali. The energy of the performers was certainly there as they jammed, equalled by the energy of the humorously enthusiastic dancers, while the sky darkened all around. Vieux's marvelous music brought me visions of how I had discovered his father. A fellow photographer/teacher had lent me Ali's CD called Savane last september as I watched over the darkroom used by his class. It was incredible and I recommend everyone check it out. Later when I found out he had a son, and heard Vieux's music, I knew he would be a great musician to see live. And he was. After the show as I ventured over to the Merchancise Tent to look at a remix album of Vieux's songs, he was there and I shook his hand and told him he played a good show. That brings the official African musician handshake count to 2. Enjoy my photos.

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