Notes from the other desk…
When we knew we were close to getting the Indigo Girls, I had to pinch myself a little and keep a very positive outlook until I knew it was in the bag. I can’t tell you how many sunny, road tripping, friend filled days of mine have consisted of “Get Out the Map,” “Closer to Fine,” and “Least Complicated.” Expect to see me front and center listening to Amy and Emily sing my heart home. And, there’s no high and lonesome voice that I’d rather hear than Del McCoury’s supported by “the boys” and their bluegrass. But I’m here to tell you about the bands you may not know about. The surprises that, hopefully, you have come to love and expect at each Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival – they are the ones I’m most excited to watch you discover and take home with you to add to your collection of sunny roadtrip (and other occasions) music.
I imagine that many of our attendees will know about Ben Sollee, but just in case you don’t, I’ll include him in the list of folks you may not know, but should. Ben embodies “singing with your heart” and his heart is often talking about tough issues like mountain top removal coal mining, the dangers of consumerism, and religious freedom. He has strong beliefs and is not afraid to share them with you! But, if you listen, you’ll know why he feels that way too, and you’ll likely agree.
Ben often rides his bike (yes, while towing his cello) to gigs all over the country to speak out about energy consumption, and also, to experience the world a little differently. He’s a story collector, and as is true of the great storytellers, he’s able to see the world for everything that it is: one filled with both great sadness and trial but also with great beauty and love. He’s a serious man, but he’s got a smile that lets you in enough to ensure you that if we work together, we’re gonna be ok.
I love to watch great music come out of UNC. Or really college students in general. They’re just getting started and have some great emotions to fuel their song. Morning Brigade has been my favorite example of that in a long while. Their creativity and music professionalism is quite impressive for such a young age, and they build their music with thick imagery and textures that are tactile and effective. They’re in the indy rock category, for sure, but like the Decemberists, they are obviously fans of folk and acoustic instrumentation, they are North Carolinians, of course. These guys are having fun and you can feel it and hear it. They’re going places, and I hope they will send us postcards along the way.
When I saw Kamara’s photo in the Indy I knew I had to know more about her. Her image just exudes beauty and art. She and her family recently moved to the Triangle from Brooklyn for a slower pace and a place to write songs with a more Southern drawl than her previous punk roots. We had her at last fall’s festival, and at last summer’s NC Stars in the Round, so you may have caught her then, but if not, treat yourself this time around. She’s grasped Southern folk and storytelling quite nicely, and her slide guitar accompaniment (usually Nathan Golub who always seems to make a Shakori Hills appearance) slips her right into a slow country afternoon. She’s got a deep and soothing voice, with which she takes us from deep hearts in hollers to busy city street-scapes with her lyrics.
Kamara is part of the family now, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome her to North Carolina. We’ll hope that our Pittsboro local, Saranpreet, makes another appearance next to her on stage. Such beautiful, bold women should really be seen and heard often.
It was suggested that I should look into Baloji & L’Orchestra De La Katuba for an upcoming festival. I went to his website, saw this video, and was hooked. I wanted to go right to the Congo, disappear into the sweat and spice of a little club where this music was playing, to experience the other side of the world in such a participatory way, dancing, singing, rapping, the poetry of a country so filled with strife but one that hasn’t forgotten that music is life, music is story, music crosses borders in ways the we can’t in other ways.
Baloji is from the Belgian Congo city of Lubumbashi. His music consists of hip-hop, soul, and soukous. Soukous, is a dance music born from the influences of Cuban’s rumba and Congolese music that gained popularity in the 1940s. His band, Orchestra de la Katuba – named after a commune in his home town – includes horns, guitars, drums, and the dance moves to back them up.
Baloji’s tour this spring is supported in part by the globalFEST Touring Fund. Find out more at globalFEST.org. At one point in his NY City GlobalFEST appearance, he said, “This isn’t world music, this is our music.” I love that! And you will love this band!
I’m also really excited to bring you guys Phil Cook & The Guitarheels, with some new tunes played by old friends, Toon & The Real Laww to show you some of the best new hip hop in the area, as well as Leyla McCalla, J.P. Harris & The Tough Choices…too many to talk about each one! Just…enjoy!
Love & Peace,