Boubacar Troue is a famous guitarist from Mali. I wasn't totally
sure where that was, so i went and looked it up on Rand
McNally.com. Apparently, it's a largish land-locked african
nation south of Algeria. It's in that part of Africa you
don't hear about in the news so much because the governments
are stable and they don't have flesh-eating microbes.
So here was this famous West African guitarist coming to play
in a coffee shop in Atlanta. A wierd thing to see, to be sure.
Let me start off by describing The Red Light Cafe. It's on
Amsterdam Street. Get it? Red Light. Amsterdam. Hello????
Bad pun aside, it's an okay little place. They have coffee
and beer and wine. Cheap cofee (the fools left the can of 8
O'Clock Coffee Beans next to the grinder! I know how cheap that
stuff is, and yet i had to pay $2 for a cup of it!) and standard
bar beer (Bass, Dogwood, Miller, etc.). I don't know about the
wine. They also served food, but i didn't have any and so can't
comment on it.
They serve these items from a bar at the back of the place.
In the room in front of the bar are a lot of little tables and
a few big ones. Pretty standard for a coffee shop. In the front
of the room, next to the door, is a little stage. Back behind
the bar is a room with some couches and a computer. I think
you can pay them to use the internet connection.
On the whole, the place is well lit and kinda cozy.
When i got there it was moderately full. Mostly older white
folks. My companion referred to is as a very "NPR crowd". I
think that's pretty correct -- as a "world" musician Traore
brought in a slightly intellectual crowd. People who were there
to study this different music.
As we sipped our expensive cups of really cheap coffee the
place slowly filled up. I think that all of the tables had somebody
sitting at them by the time Boubacar Traore came out. He brought
with him one of his countrymen named Madayore Nyang (i have
no idea how to spell that, so this is what i am going with).
Nyang played percussion on a largish gourd while Traore played
guitar and sang.
The two gentlemen were dressed in those really long african
robes and little black hats. They did not speak any english
to the crowd except a few "Thank you" type things.
Musically it was quite nice. Traore's style is part blues and
part flamenco. His right hand will be doing flamenco style finger
picking, while his left hand will be doing bluesy string bending.
It made for an interesting sound. One wierd thing about his
playing -- the guitar stayed capoed at the 2nd fret for the
whole show. I guess he needs the slightly higher pitch.
Traore also backed his guitar-playing with vocals. According
to what i had read in advance of the show, some of his songs
are in the language of his people and some are in the language
of their former French colonial rulers. However, since his guitar
style in very influenced by flamenco, i noted that he sang at
least one song in Spanish. It sounded like a normal flamenco
number and i noted the chorus said something about "Santa Maria".
His voice is nice and smooth. The words flow nicely, and the
language was musical. I guess that's the Mali language, or perhaps
just his lyrical pronunciation of French. And of course, it
also displays quite a bit of poetical skill.
While Traore was playing, Nyang was providing backing percussion
on The Gourd. This was a huge gourd too -- about the size of
a watermelon. Nyang alternately beat it with his fist, tapped
it with his fingers, or knocked on it with the rings on his
hands. The sound of The Gourd beaten with a fist was the same
as the deep percussion in Paul Simon's song The Obvious Child.
Quite honestly, after a while the constancy of the rhythm got
really monotonous. I guess that there just isn't too much that
you can do with a big Gourd.
I noticed something else strange about the whole show. I listen
to a lot of mopey music. You know, full of angst, depression,
loss. Very little of the stuff i listen to is just pure celebration
of life. This show, on the other hand, was extremely lacking
in existential content. Maybe it's just that i didn't understand
any of the words that were sung, or maybe the music really was
positive and upbeat. Traore and Nyang spent the whole show grinning
and dancing and obviously having a great time. Their attitude
was happy and infectious, and it really stuck out to me.
So it was a good evening. I would recommend going to see this
tour to anyone interested in world music, the blues, flamenco,
or just sheerly happy music.