While many of you were whooping it up in Kansas City, Liz and I were at Putamayo’s Acoustic Africa Concert featuring Dobet GnahorÃ© from Ivory Coast, Habib KoitÃ© from Mali, and Vusi Mahlasela from South Africa. Liz and I have been long time fans of Habib KoitÃ© and like the last time we saw him in concert we left with a little glimmer of hope in our otherwise pessimistic hearts.
Though the venue, UTâ€™s Hogg Auditorium, makes for a rather staid atmosphere to see Afropop by the end of the show everyone was on their feet. Many times while Liz and I were dancing I had to look behind me in wonder at all the different races and ages of the 600 other folks dancing with us. All the skin tones of the human spectrum. Blue haired retirees, nuclear families, all phases of life were there. As we left I heard more than one conversation in something other than English. This is a typical experience at Performing Arts Center events and it makes me proud to play a small part in it. There is no experience that gives me more hope for the future of the human race.
Except of course the experience of playing Settlers of Catan with you idiots.
(Shotts: Acoustic Africa will be at the Walker Arts Center on Thursday. If your schedule is free, I highly recommend that you and Jen check them out.)
J. E.–This just sounds fantastic. I really like Habib Koite, who you recommended. It sounds like a really uplifting evening of music and humanity. I’m sad to say I had to miss the Acoustic Africa show last night here in Minneapolis. Jen had her group of friends gathering–kind of a book group, I guess you might call it–and I had a Graywolf event.
It’s interesting, the immediacy of music, its popularity, its accessibility, and as J. E. suggests, its way of bringing people together, sometimes in large numbers, sometimes in ecstatic dancing. Last night, I did a lot of work to put on a likewise “multicultural” event, located not far from our house, in a neighborhood that is predominantly African American and Native American. So, we brought in Percival Everett, a longtime Graywolf author who is African American, and David Treuer, who is a Minnesota writer and Ojibwe. We pushed pretty hard with the neighborhood to get the word out about the event, sent out hundreds of postcards, partnered with Franklin Art Works, a very nice gallery that features multicultural, contemporary visual artists, and we notified the Native American Center, which is just down the street. We got about twenty-five people there, and the only people who were not white were the two writers reading from their recent novels. The readings were top notch, and it was a fine event, but disappointing in numbers and the kinds of people we were hoping to reach.
I don’t believe literature is “stuffier” than music in terms of content, but it’s perceived to be (sometimes by myself, I admit). I’ve been to readings that produce a similar giddiness that J. E. describes about the concert, but they are rare events. Literature ultimately often has to take place in solitude, in terms of its creation and in terms of its reception, and that’s not a limitation. But it felt like it was last night, when I wish I would have been at the Acoustic Africa concert….
I didn’t know you were such a big world music listener. I’m excited, and I’m sending a cd for you and Liz. I think I have it somewhere, but could you send me your street address?