Tag: World Music

So what IS it with the Paramount?

So what IS it with the Paramount?

Friday I went to the Paramount Theater in Oakland with some friends to see Youssou Ndour and Angelique Kidjo. Wow, what a GREAT show!! Kidjo did an amazing job of warming up the crowd, and (of course!) she encouraged everyone to get up and dance, and to come down to the stage.

Those of you that know the Paramount, a beautifully refurbished Art Deco theater in downtown Oakland, are probably saying, ‘Uh-oh!’ – because you know how ridiculously anal the security staff is there. They were caught off guard by the crowd’s swift reaction to Kidjo’s invitation to come down front and get with the groove. But they made up for it by picking on individual people to verbally harass and physically intimidate back to their seats!

And when is the last time you saw people sitting at a concert, enjoying the vibe, when ushers suddenly start sweeping the rows with flashlights, blinding people? Say, what??

– So, what IS it with the Paramount?

However, Kidjo and Ndour helped us all rise above the hostile treatment by Paramount staff, and Ndour’s final encore, a beautiful interpretation of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song was a fitting end to the evening.


Can’t wait to see Kidjo and Ndour again – just hope they are playing somewhere OTHER than the Paramount!

Berkeley World Music Festival – Yes, some things ARE still free!

Berkeley World Music Festival – Yes, some things ARE still free!

June is normally a very dry month here in the Bay Area. Even though rain forced the action indoors this past weekend at the Berkeley World Music Festival, it did nothing to dampen the spirits of the performers or the crowds that packed into music stores, cafes and pubs to watch them play.

A dozen or more acts played around Telegraph Ave during the afternoon and early evening, and I managed to catch 3 of them!

Mamadou & Vanessa
Mamadou & Vanessa

Mamadou and Vanessa got me rocking early in the afternoon, skillfully playing traditional Malian ngoni (harp) music, as we packed the aisles of Amoeba Music and swayed to the beat.

Riffat Sultana & Sukhawat Ali Khan
Riffat Sultana & Sukhawat Ali Khan

Emerging from Amoeba, we went across the street to check out the crowd outside Raleigh’s Pub, to find Riffat Sultana & Sukhawat Ali Khan playing to a packed house. Riffat’s voice, backed by her brother Sukhawat’s vocal and harmonium skills, mesmerized us with inspirational Sufi music from Pakistan.

Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia
Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia

And the 3rd band I got to see (making it 3 bands from 3 continents in just 3 blocks!) was Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia, playing incredible Cuban Son (a la Buena Vista Social Club) – this was not a band you could sit and watch, everyone was up, dancing to the beat!!

So if you want to travel the world in an afternoon, musically at least, mark your calendar for next year!


Les Nubians rock the house at Yoshi’s SF!

Les Nubians rock the house at Yoshi’s SF!

Taking in the local music scene when you travel is a great way to get a better feel for the local culture, and an excellent way to meet people, and just soak up the vibe. And in those long, dry spells between big trips, it’s always great to catch visiting bands that bring colorful culture and great music to our doorsteps!

Les Nubians rocking the house at Yoshi's SF
Les Nubians rocking the house at Yoshi's SF

One of my favorite bands to see live is Les Nubians, and on Friday they lived up to my (high!) expectations by putting on a great show at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Their ‘Afropean’ blend of French chanson, West African rhythms, Jazz and Hip-Hop made for great music to dance to. They have a message too, that as world citizens we have a responsibility for others, and a need to treat everyone equitably irrespective of sex, skin color or race, and this adds depth to their performance.

Helene and Celia Faussart, Les Nubians
Helene and Celia Faussart, Les Nubians



Top 15 Travel Songs

Top 15 Travel Songs

OK, this was originally going to be a Top 10 list, but that proved too hard. So here they are, my Top 15 Travel Songs. And yes, this is my personal, totally subjective list. Some of these songs I have been traveling with for a VERY long time (like ‘Mama hated Diesels’, my ‘special mention’ song below)! Others are more recent additions (‘The Long Way Round’, by the Dixie Chicks). Some songs are all about traveling. Some are songs that I have used to keep me fired up and wide awake on long road trips on multiple continents. Together they make up my core travel playlist.

Feel free to add comments with your personal favorite travel songs so I can expand my repertoire! I’m sure my future travel companions will appreciate it! 🙂

15 – Running on Empty, Jackson Browne


14 – Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen


13 – On the Road Again, Willie Nelson


12 – Born to be Wild, Steppenwolf


11 – Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight


10 – Rambling Man, The Allman Brothers


9 – Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin


8 – City of New Orleans, Arlo Guthrie


7 – The Long Way Round, The Dixie Chicks


6 – Take it Easy, The Eagles


5 – Come Away with Me, Norah Jones


4 – I Would Walk 500 Miles, The Proclaimers


3 – Africa, Toto


2 – Voyager, Les Nubians


1 – Like a Bat out of Hell, Meatloaf


And a special mention goes to Mama Hated Diesels, Commander Cody. When I worked in my early twenties as a driver / leader, running camping trips in Europe, this was our theme song as we drove our bright yellow, open-top double-decker buses on French and Italian country roads. And later, when my daughter was little, she and I would sing this song together on road trips.


African Princesses, in Oakland?

African Princesses, in Oakland?

Did I mention that my theme tune is “Voyager” by Les Nubians?

“Voyager, rien ne m’est plus essentiel
Plier bagages, en quĂȘte d’autres images plus rĂ©elles..
Partir loin et découvrir
Quel air l’humanitĂ© respire
Comment nos contemporains vivent
Sous d’autres lumiĂšres.

“Travel, nothing is more important to me
Pack my bags, in search of other images more real…
Travel far and discover
The air that humanity breathes
And how our contemporaries live
Under other lights.

So I just had to be there this afternoon at Yoshi’s when Les Nubians included Oakland in their pre-release tour for their new album, “NU REVOLUTION”! What can I say, other than the music was true to their ‘Afropean’ heritage – a wonderful mix of African rhythyms, R&B, with a jazzy style, with lyrics in French and English. Check it out for yourself at Les Nubians.

Les Nubians, Afro Hair Dance
Les Nubians, Afro Hair Dance

Great as the new songs are from their new CD, the most fun part was the interaction between HĂ©lĂšne and CĂ©lia and the kids in the audience, especially the Afro Hair Dance, which they even performed again at the end of the show as an encore, a special request by an 8 year old fan!

meeting Les Nubians at Yoshi's
meeting Les Nubians at Yoshi's

Thanks to my daughter for taking the photo, and to my girlfriend Regina for indulging my moment with Les Princesses Nubiennes! 😉

Toumani Diabate, master Kora player

Toumani Diabate, master Kora player

Some of the most enjoyable things about travel are learning new and different cultural traditions, trying to master your first few phrases of a new language, and discovering rich new veins of music.

Of course, most of us don’t get to travel to our dream adventure destinations nearly as often as we would like, so when the opportunity presented itself to witness master Kora player Toumani Diabate playing here in the Bay Area, I jumped at the chance.

Toumani Diabate at Yoshi's
Toumani Diabate at Yoshi's

Yoshi’s offers an intimate venue to get close to, and sometimes even converse with, a wide variety of world class musicians. While the primary focus is Jazz, traditional and modern musicians from around the world are often also featured.

… And this week Toumani Diabate, a Kora (traditional West African 21 stringed harp-like instrument) master from Mali filled the house at Yoshi’s in Oakland with incredibly varied sounds, from guitar like riffs and solos to complex melodies making use of all those strings – but don’t take my word for it, check his music out for yourself, live if you can, or on YouTube: