For fans of African music, Senegalese kora player Youssoupha Sidibe was the highlight of last summer's Reggae Rising, strumming intricate melodies on his 21-sting harp. Born in Dakar, Youssoupha did not follow the usual path to kora. Traditionally in his culture, sons learn from fathers in the musician caste. Famous players like Toumani Diabaté came from long lines of kora players. Youssoupha learned in a Dakar music school and took the instrument in new directions, mixing its sweet sounds with Islamic Sufi devotional chanting of the Baay Faal Mouride brotherhood.
"I've been working for like 20 years," he says, "from going to school learning the instrument from scratch and being able to make up a song and come up with a repertory putting it within my spirituality. I believe my music can help people because I have the intention of healing and giving peace to people, blessing the people with the message of my master."
The message? "It's a message of Peace. God. Love. A message of oneness, of no separation. That means we accept everybody and we can be anywhere; we can live any kind of life with any kind of tradition. That's why we wear the patchwork: All the colors are represented so there is no separation. That's the message in my music."
His latest variation on kora tradition is playing with a reggae-style rhythm section, which is what he'll do Thursday, March 12, at the Red Fox Tavern. He figures kora fits perfectly with reggae. "Reggae music is African music, played by Africans who came to the Caribbean. It's all the same. It's very upbeat, because the kora keeps singing and singing. The way I play is very percussive, a lot of rhythms so it's very danceable. You won't be able to stop dancing."
Youssoupha has some serious competition on the reggae front Thursday. While he's playing the Fox, Jamaican star Anthony B will be tearing up Mazzotti's in Arcata (a show moved from Toph's in Benbow). Anthony has played Reggae many times -- his 2007 appearance was captured for a DVD, Anthony B Live at Reggae Rising. Along with 13 songs the disc includes interviews where, among other things, he discusses the depth of reggae. "In reggae music there's a song for everything: sad moment, happy moment, simple moment, or just about the family, about the economics, about politics, about history. Reggae is so vast, so wide, it's not going to stop for now. Reggae will live forever."
Meanwhile, Thursday at the Jambalaya it's the club debut of Greg Lojko's new band, The Bad Lilas. As you may recall, Lojko is a former Rubbernecker, same with B.L. bassist B.T. Hollister. Banjo player (and maker) Colin Vance comes from Striped Pig Stringband. Cellist James Westfall and second guitarist W. Scott Coulter have no apparent prior band affiliations. According to Lojko (in p.r. mode), "The Bad Lilas play a blend of folk, bluegrass, old time and rock ’n' roll in an acoustic setting." You might notice there's no drummer. "We call it 'chamber punk'," says Lojko. The Bad Lilas name? It's borrowed (or stolen) from Greg's former upstairs neighbor, Lila Nelson (you should know by now she's moved to Oakland and we all miss her). Lila used the term to describe her split radio personality: At a certain point in her KHUM folk show, "Bad Lila" would take over from "Good Lila" and she'd start playing harder, rockier "bad" music. Having seen Greg rock out solo and acoustic on guitar, I'm guessing that badass rock elements may overpower folk in his new band. Rockin' country band Rooster McClintock fills out the bill at the Jam. Rooster McC also plays Saturday up in Trinidad -- their hometown, I believe -- sharing a gig at the Ocean Grove with Stolen Taxi.
The huge indie rock confab South by Southwest isn't until next weekend, but we're already getting bands on their way there. Among them: The Blakes, a moody, garagey band out of Seattle who won a lot of fans when they played here back in ’07. Guitarist Garnet Keim explains cryptically how the band name came from the mystic poet: "That dream about William Blake? I didn't know I was dreaming. Was it an hour or was it just seconds? I remember walking into a workshop and he was working on some sort of copper etchings. We exchanged words as I was interested in what he was doing, then floated out into the street, which took me somewhere else." Svelte Velvet opens for them Friday at Humboldt Brews
As mentioned here previously, Little Feat guitarists Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett play an intimate gig at Cecil's Friday night. Opening the show is Jeff Jolly, a rootsy guitarist now based in San Fran, who somehow seems like a local. He's sticking around Humboldt for a few days, playing Saturday at HumBrews with a pickup version of the Jeff Jolly Band, including drummer Danny Montgomery. Bona fide locals Old Dog share the bill.
At the Schooner Friday and Saturday you have another opportunity to experience Elvis and The Houndogs, featuring Humboldt's top E-impersonator.
We have a few more early Irish celebrations to follow last week's pre-St. Pat's shindigs: Saturday at Muddy's Hot Cup Scatter the Mud plays its Irish/Celtic music with "wandering spectre" Carpathian serving as host and telling Emerald Isle ghost tales of Banshees and the like.
Local Celtic quartet Good Company plays Saturday at the Fortuna Monday Club. Then, on Sunday afternoon at Fortuna River Lodge, St. Joseph's Parish and the Knights of Columbus host St. Patrick's Day Shenanigans, their 3rd annual corned beef and cabbage dinner with Emerald Coast Irish Dancers kicking up their heel for entertainment.
On St. Patrick's Day proper -- Tuesday, March 17 -- Scatter the Mud plays in the ballroom of the Eagle House behind Gallagher's Irish Pub with the Emerald Coast Irish Dancers step-dancing once more, followed by an open Celtic music session.
Kathe Lyth plays her Celtic harp at Libation Tuesday. (And they have some fine Irish beers.)
If The Pogues are more your idea of an Irish band than The Chieftains, catch the reunion of local Irish/punkers Smashed Glass at Aunty Mo's Tuesday with The Common Vice along for the ride.
The Boiler Room has The Malone, a local band whose name sounds kinda Irish. Is it Irish music? On MySpace they declare: "We tend to play whatever the hell we feel like. From Latin-based music, blues, rock, all the way to the heaviest of metal, we play whatever is fun at the time."
Humboldt Brews celebrates the green with NorCal jamgrass band Hot Buttered Rum. Irish? Maybe a little, since bluegrass has some Scotch-Irish roots. The Red Fox's 3rd Annual St. Patty's Day Bash brings together Subliminal Sabotage and NPK. Irish? Not. Six Rivers celebrates its 5th Anniversary Party on St. Paddy's Day with non-Irish music inside and outside starting at noon, including Piano Man Ben, Speakeasy Saints, The Bret Harte Breakers, Synrgy and Juce. (They may have green beer.)
The Jam has a "St. Patty's Day Blues Party" that's basically the usual Uptown Kings Tuesday blues jam, but on the blue-green side. Guitar wiz Andy Widman is featured and he certainly looks Irish. Is he?
Last but not least, there's a punk-Irish thing assembled by the folks behind the upcoming What The Pop Music Video Festival. "Forget stupid green beer and lying leprechauns with their broken rainbow promises -- the end of the rainbow does hold gold this year at the Logger Bar," they proclaim, inviting all to a "full night of Pogues covers at your favorite Blue Lake watering hole" delivered by "a barbershop quartet, thrash ukuleles, a Pogues jazz odyssey and a marching leprechaun brass band, all hosted by several green clad excitable characters," plus "St. Paddy's prizes and mashed potatoes, all for free (well not the potatoes)." So there you go: Turn that "Dirty Old Town" Blue Lake green on St. Pat's Day. And don't forget to toast the poor banished snakes.