Globalquerque, Part II.

by wjw on September 24, 2014

The second night opened with Oumar Konaté from Mali.  He’s something of the spokesman for his generation, those who watched their republic overthrown by a military government that was so inept that it promptly handed half the country to a guerrilla army of Islamist fanatics. Within days.  If a military government can’t even do military well . . .

Oumar came out alone, with an acoustic guitar, then gradually added a bass player, drummer, and electricity.  After a while I began to think, “Hmm, big loud inventive guitar virtuosity, colossal decibel level, and a rock trio . . . where have I heard this before?”  If Konaté isn’t the second coming of Hendrix, he’ll do until the real Hendrix returns.

I reluctantly dragged myself away from the Plaza Mayor to see Erkan Ogur and the Telvin Trio.  This group was advertised as Sufi music, but what I saw was a jazz trio with a heavy Turkish influence.  (Not a bad thing, just not what I was expecting.)  Ogur is a master of the fretless guitar, which enables him to bend those Middle Eastern quarter tones with a fine expertise.  Still, the event was a little drone-y for me, and I moved on.

Next I wandered off to the courtyard to catch a couple songs by The Cowboy Way, yet another trio, this one composed of actual cowboys.  (Well, two cowboys and one Western novelist.)  All I can say is that if you don’t like cowboy songs sung in three-part harmony, you have no soul at all.

No videos of this band, unfortunately.

I returned to the Plaza Mayor to catch the Hungarian band Söndörgő, which seems to be pronounced something like “Srndrgrr.”  As I know nothing of Hungarian music beyond the soundtrack to The Third Man, I didn’t know what to expect.  Srndrgrr sounded like a lot of Balkan bands I’ve heard, except with a wall of tamburas, a Hungarian instrument which looked and sounded like tiny mandolins.

New Mexico is the sort of place where, when a tamburitza band turns up, a crowd arrives who knows just how to line-dance to Balkan music, and soon there was a long line of bobbing dancers weaving in and out of the crowd.  Once the manic Magyars saw what kind of audience they had, they doubled down on their energy, and mutual madness ensued.

Following the Hungarians came the klezmer band Golem, which describes itself as an “Eastern European folk-punk band.”  I can’t disagree.

One song featured the lament of a young Ukranian woman: “Why, God, did you make me beautiful and then stick me in a place like this?”  Can’t disagree on that one, either.

The festival then gave me a chance to fall in love with Guatamalan chanteuse Gaby Moreno for a second time.  My first was earlier in the summer, when she was with Hugh Laurie’s Copper-Bottom Band, and she was singing blues with a gardenia in her hair while strumming a mandolin.  This time she was singing ballads, blues, and rock, and singing mostly in Spanish while coaxing some perfectly bell-like notes out of a guitar that seemed almost as big as she is.   Her band was also pretty damn fine.

She isn’t afraid of vintage, isn’t afraid to hop from one genre to the next.  Reminds me of me.

Her first two albums were mostly in English, and the latest is mostly Spanish.  She decided there needed to be more Spanish blues songs, and so she wrote some— and some other stuff, too.

The audience was enthusiastic in that perfectly insane way, with a big Guatamalan flag waving in front of the stage, and kept calling her back for encores.  (She was the only artist to do encores, but then maybe she was the only one permitted to do encores.  No one was following her in the theater, and the crew didn’t have to go home till midnight.)

Beto Jamaica closed out the festival, and I’ve already talked about him in the last post.  I was unable to match the energy of his performance, as I’d been doing this two nights running, and I was about on my last legs.  There was nothing to do but go home, put up my sore feet, have a couple Sapphire-and-tonics, and wait to do it all again next year.

TRX September 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

> Once the manic Magyars saw what kind of audience they had,
> they doubled down on their energy, and mutual madness ensued.

It’s always a blast to see a band sync up with the crowd.

Back in the early ’80s I saw part of a TV special on, I think it was “violence in music.” Big expose’-style program, with Dan Rather doing his trademark “make them squirm” routine on a bunch of different guests.

Someone I never heard of slunk off, segue to Gene Simmons during one of Kiss’ off-years. Maybe 400 pounds, greasy hair, eyes like two piss-holes in a snowbank, blotchy complexion. The very picture of an over-the-hill ex-rockstar. Blather starts sniping at Simmons, who just sits there like he’s not sure what’s going on. Then Simmons leans forward and asks Blather why he’s pointing the finger at music, when he’s a member of a profession that shoves rape, murder, and every other kind of violence down the throat of the public, four times a day. Why does he have to listen to that when all he wants is the weather report? And… and then it cut to a commercial, and there was someone else I’d never heard of sitting in Gene’s chair.

The difference was, Dan Blather had been a TV star since before Gene Simmons was even born, but he did it all in front of the glass eye of the camera, essentially, his career was a monologue, and any others on the show were just props for him to bounce his “wit” off of. But much as people liked to poke fun at Kiss, they were huge in their say, and Gene Simmons was one of the gods of rock and roll. And he knew how to work a crowd, backward and forward. And even as low as he was at the time, the contest was so overwhelmingly in his favor, the studio cut him out before Blather looked like even more of an idiot than he was.

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