Saturday, January 31, 2009

Musical Richness

Richard Bona was the first person I heard play the kalimba really well; he creates an ethereal sound by combining his falsetto voice with kalimba notes.

This video is On Her Way from Speaking of Now Live. Laura Barrett has been gaining popularity for her kalimba playing; however, to me, she presents a much less convincing sound than Bona due to her flat voice, which recalls a hollow Lili Haydn or a tamed Kimya Dawson. It may also be that she lacks the varied history that textured Bona’s voice.

Although a number of different takes, such as Jake Shimabukuro’s ukelele playing, have grown in popularity, living legends continue to be ignored in North America; perhaps, this is unsurprising due to the herd behaviour recently outlined by Thaler and Sunstein. One such legend is Ernest Ranglin who, like the blues players of the South that influenced so many but rarely gained widespread acknowledgment, helped birth ska music. He has been performing blazing, innovative, licks for years, which are imbued with the rhythms of his native Carribbean. One of my favourite albums is The Search for the Lost Riddim, for which he returned to Senegal 20 years after his stint with the Jimmy Cliff Band.

Inside North America few capture the essence of humanity like Lili Haydn; rich verse, such as the following from The Saddest Sunset, adorns her somber violin playing:

It's hard when no one hears you calling.
Who will catch you if you fall?
And though the waters are rising
We all leave and come in alone.
The love that you're longing for is your own.

It was great to see her performance on Californication. (View my brief review here.) In order to explore more of the world’s musical richness check out Mondomix (previously Calabash), Nat Geo Music, and Smithsonian Global Sound.

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