Two nights ago, I turned on the local public radio station which I listen to in the car. I was delighted to hear an African music show I don’t get to listen to much anymore with my child-care and blogging responsibilities. It’s hosted by local African music DJ Doug Paterson. For this show, his special guest was Jon Kertzer, who for years hosted a wonderful African music show of his own on KEXP. Jon had just attended the annual WOMEX world music expo in Cardiff, Wales. He came back with some amazing recordings he’d been able to make in a sound studio offered to exhibition participants.
Here’s the audio stream of the show if you want to listen to the entire hour. There are some wonderful tracks (the audio quality is just adequate). But one track simply blew me away. It was a duet with two harp players, Catrin Finch playing the Welsh harp and the Senegalese kora wizard, Seckou Keita. The song is Bamba. The YouTube video above is the 16-minute rehearsal version. Spotify has the 9 minute album version:
I love the video version both because it’s longer, allows the players to be expansive in working out their musical grooves, and shows their physical interaction as they played.
As for the song, what can one say about it? Imagine a slice of sonic heaven. Or if you’re not inclined in that direction, imagine 16 minutes of pure earthly delight. Imagine two human beings doing what they love to do best and doing it so absolutely beautifully. This song is a prayer. It is a joy. It will make you snap your fingers, rock your body. It may even make you want to shout (for joy). If it does, don’t hold back.
There is so little of such unalloyed joy in the world. It’s one of the amazing features of music that it can capture such emotion so well. My only regret is that often it can’t be transferred into general society. If we could get Israelis and Palestinians collaborating in this way, they couldn’t kill each other.
At any rate, listen to this prayer. Let your soul and spirit be nourished. And see if you can bring some of that spirit into the world in whatever way you can.