Friday, October 17, 2008

Behind the music in the Congo

Posted By on 10.17.08 at 04:52 PM

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When Americans get a chance to hear live music from Africa, there's usually a disconnect: we don't understand the lyrics, we don't  know how a style developed or from what, and in the case of traditional sounds we don't know the ritual function of the music. Once in a while a performer will offer a brief and necessarily vague bit of background or explanation from the stage, but I rarely feel like my listening experience is as rich as it would be if I knew the full complex context of what I was hearing.

This Sunday at the Hideout, though, Janet Bean (Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater, the Horse's Ha) has organized an event that ought to go some distance toward educating folks about what's really going on in at least one country on the continent. It's part of an international campaign called Congo Week, which seeks to raise awareness of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo--the country has been devastated by civil war, corruption, and for the past decade an all-out war over the its vast natural resources.

Tambours Sans Frontiers, a percussion-heavy group founded in Brazzaville eight years ago and now based in Chicago, will perform, but most of the program is given over to discussions. Local journalist Kisuule Magala Katende, a native of Uganda who contributes regularly to WBEZ's Chicago Matters, will talk about the political aspects of the ongoing mess, and African studies scholar David Barouski will discuss the role mining has played in the conflict. A documentary called Tin Mining Trade in the Congo will also be screened.

Cover is $8, $5 for students, and all proceeds benefit a fund established by Friends of the Congo to send independent journalists to the most afflicted regions of the country. Also on sale will be a CD compilation called Congo's Angels, which includes tracks by Irma Thomas, Neko Case, Susan Cowsill, Eliza Gilkyson, Bean, and others. The event begins at 5 PM.

Today's playlist:

Chamellows, Rat Hearts (Fonal)
Don Cherry, Symphony for Improvisers (Blue Note)
Eivind Aarset, Sonic Codex (Jazzland)
Dave Allen, Real and Imagined (Fresh Sound New Talent)
Michel Wintsch, Christian Weber & Christian Wolfarth, WWW (Leo)

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