Sunday, March 16, 2008

Habib Koité Concert at the Alliance

I went to a free Habib Koité & Bamada concert yesterday at the Alliance, and it's hands-down the best concert I've been to ever. Habib himself plays some five different instruments, and his supporting band are just as strong: his Balofon player (Kélétigui Diabaté), for example, is a dour-looking old man who seems to be more dead than alive, until he sits in front of the Balofon and takes up the sticks, at which point he seems to be more Balofon than man. Then the Old Man of the Balofon put down his sticks, and grabbed a violin from somewhere, and tucked it under his chin and destroyed all movie-initiated clichés I had had of young, white violin players. At the end of the song all the instruments faded out, and Habib went to stand by the Old Man, and challenged him to play higher and higher notes, playing a note on his guitar, then turning an ear to him. The Old Man matched note for note on his violin, until they got into the higher, shriller, almost-beyond-human-hearing pitches - then the Old Man had to concede with a smile, shaking his head as if to say "Not that high, Habib".

At several points during the evening it felt like rather than making this music, Habib and his band were pulling it in its raw, undistorted form from wherever music comes from, and taming it for our untrained ears.