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Neo Griot 

Wednesday, Aug 5 2009
In this country, if people amble around while singing to themselves and telling random stories, they're called crazy or homeless or both. In West African states such as Guinea, they're revered as griots — wandering poets, musicians, and oral historians. Sekouba "Bambino" Diabaté comes from a long line of such griots. (Griots usually marry other griots, which helps keep the heritage intact.) His mom, Mariama Samoura, was one of Guinea's most admired singers during the '60s, and he started singing as early as 12. In the late '70s, when he was only 16, he was asked by the president of Guinea to lead one of the country's famed orchestras, Bembeya Jazz National, and has been a star ever since. Known as the “Golden Voice of Guinea," Diabaté has a remarkably large range akin to that of an opera or qawwali singer. Over his nine solo albums, he has attempted to blend traditional instruments with modern sequencers and drum machines, but it is during live shows that his talent truly shines. Backed by a large horn section, various singers, and traditional dancers, Diabaté offers a feast for the eyes and ears, spinning tales of common folks in peril, all told in a tremulous voice elevating ever skyward. This show is an ultrarare stateside performance, since he rarely travels outside the African continent. Wanderers, apparently, have their limits as well.
Fri., Aug. 14, 9 p.m., 2009

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Dan Strachota


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