Gigs, dance, art

February 4th, 2011: Azmaris

@cité de la musique

After the religious music that was the main event, there was a free concert by azmaris at the same place, but not in the concert hall itself. That was more my kind of music, but the place was way too cold — the architecture, not the temperature — and the high ceiling felt very wrong to me. But the music was pretty good, and Melaku Belay was his amazing self. There was another dancer this time, Zenash Tsegaye, and though I didn’t think she reached his level, she had memorable moments too. Again, the language barrier probably made me miss a sizable chunk of the fun, but the musicians were good despite less than ideal conditions: Abbebe Fekade, Eyerusalem Dubale, Mimi Zenebe, Sileshi Demissie, and Asnake Gebreyes, who looked familiar. I think I saw him perform before, but I’m not sure where. Maybe with Mohammed Jimmy Mohammed a few shortly before his death. Anyway, that show made me wish I could see them in a more suitable venue.


February 14, 2011 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

September 12th, 2008: The Ex & Getatchew Mekuria

@cabaret sauvage

Before the gig itself, there was a stationary marching band — if that makes sense — in front of the venue, the final performance after a master class by the Surnatural Orchestra. The conducting in itself was quite interesting, both from the gestures and from the fact that a musician would at times leave his or her instrument behind for a while to conduct. The music was better than I would have expected from such a project, with my favorite moment when there were some voices involved. I guess I would have been getting more impatient if I hadn’t seen Terrie Ex, Colin McLean, Getatchew Mekuria and Melaku Belay still hanging out outside nearby.

I know it’s my fourth time seeing The Ex this year, and I saw them with Getatchew less than one year ago. But it just doesn’t get old. And even though I usually sulk in the back of any venue, I again ended up right next to the stage. That was deliberate, and for the most part because of Melaku Belay and my being vertically challenged. For the most part, it was pretty close to last year’s performance, and thus to the most excellent record they cut together. In my opinion, it was even better.

There were many reasons for that. Xavier Charles was a factor, especially a rousing solo that Getatchew seemed to enjoy. Speaking of which, he again seemed so happy to be here, enjoying his and the others playing, his interactions with each of the others was a heartwarming sight. And anyway, Getatchew Mekuria alone is well worth hearing, as he proved when he performed a solo, and another time with just Katherina. But the best was when all were involved, with different elements just working so amazingly well together, from the Terrie/Andy sonic fights to Jos’ commanding voice to the warm brass sound.

And then there was Melaku Belay. His first appearance was all about shoulder shaking, and he even brought a guy from the audience on stage, possibly from Ethiopia as well from the shoulder moves. His second involved an amazing display of balance while throwing his legs up and front, and of humor when he grabbed his outstretched leg and air guitared with it while Terrie and Andy were in full swing. He’s great as a dancer, but what made his performance so special for me was his interacting with the others. And that reached a climax with his next appearance, with a stick and a curved knife. What he did with those was good enough, but when he handed the stick to G.W. Sok and they spent some time moving in synch that image was a perfect summary of what made this performance special.

Nothing at all like the arranged weddings world music stuff can be made of, this was a real meeting of real people who are both open and confident enough to be themselves and interact in a way that enriches everyone, including lucky bystanders like me. The only regret I have is of not having been convincing enough to have people I care about come and see this. Maybe some did, but I don’t think so.

September 13, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

December 20th, 2007: The Ex with Getatchew Mekuria / Le Tigre des Platanes / Melaku Belay

@theatre Gerard Philipe

At least I got another wish fulfilled this year. Back in August I wrote that The Ex with Getatchew Mekuria was a gig I was eagerly expecting, and I did get that one (the other was Sunburned, no luck on the rest of that list). The evening didn’t start all that well with some public transportation trouble that had me running late. I did get there just in time though.

I don’t know the name of the first performer. I read that Melaku Belay was the dancer that joined him during a song, with these typical shoulder and head moves that just scream Ethiopia to me. I’d go out on a limb and say this was an Azmari performance, but that may just be me being ignorant. What I did see was a lively performance by a singer using a single-stringed, box-shaped violinish instrument. I didn’t understand a single word, but he proved to be adept at working a crowd, which seems to be a common trait to Ethiopian performers I’ve seen so far. I would have liked that set to last longer.

Then came a French band, Le Tigre des Platanes, who performed Ethiopian songs except for a great Dog Faced Hermans cover, appropriate enough in that setting. Drums, bass, sax and trumpet combo, they sounded like they had deep roots in jazz. It wasn’t that much of a good sign when that showed, but they did a great job of performing Ethiopian standards with some unusual personality. I’ve been told they are great people as well, which may have biased my opinion. On the other hand, I really wanted them to be done and make way for the main act.

Meaning The Ex, Getatchew Mekuria, and additional guests on saxophone, trombone, clarinet and bass. Maybe it was a bit too close to their record, but that’s just nitpicking. That show was great, Katherina remains my favorite drummer, G.W. Sok was his usual commanding presence when not hiding on the side, and Getatchew was just as good as advertised. The best was how much he seemed to be enjoying being there. He smiled throughout and danced with his instrument when not playing. That was such a great touch. The guy is definitely no dummy either; makes me wonder what he sounded like a few decades ago in his own country. He probably changed a few lives way back then, I wonder what came out of that. I feel blessed to have witnessed that performance, great as music and heart-warming in a way few have been in my experience. Even Wax and Gold turned out just as powerful but less painful than usual for me — I got some serious vibes about that song…

December 25, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment