At Byblos, a legendary touch of old-style blues bringing down the house with the Blind Boys of Alabama
Special to The Daily Star, Beirut
The ancient citadel at Byblos on Sunday night felt like Alcatraz as silhouettes of heavily armed police officers marched relentlessly up and down the castle walls. The rise in security from previous concerts was to safeguard the presence of the American Grammy award-winning group, the Blind Boys of Alabama, as well as American Ambassador Vincent Battle. The group, present to begin the final concert in this year's Byblos International Festival, like fellow American and grammy winner Solomon Burke (who performed last month at Edde Sands) always requires heavy security as American stars in Lebanon.
Having entered walking hand-to-shoulder resembling a human train, these blind blues singers opened their highly entertaining gig with the classic soul hit Down by the Riverside, before personally welcoming the prime minister by dedicating their next song to him: Nobody's Fault But Mine.
After a wave of audience laughter had died down, this beautiful acappella song made the most of the Blind Boys' considerable range of vocal talents they continued Sunday's show with a fine mix of Southern soul, rhythm and blues, gospel, acappella and slightly more upbeat funky tunes.
With songs such as I Believe, Lord Remember Me and Amazing Grace, the name of the Lord was never far away. Though the core members of the Blind Boys of Alabama may be in their 70s, they haven't yet lost their youthful spirit and they still know how to put on a show.
The absolute highlight of Sunday's concert came when lead singer Clarence Fountain was led into the audience, and he kept on repeating to a funky beat: "Do you feel good? Then stand upon your feet and let the whole world know."
And that is exactly what the audience did. While the crowd was standing up and clapping along, the song went on for at least 10 minutes.
At 74 years old renown duduk master Djivan Gasparyan has won this years WOMEX (World Music Expo) award. As well as being established as a living legend at home in Armenia, Gasparyan has worked with a number of important artists in the international music world including the Kronos Quartet, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and, of course, Michael Brook with whom he made the extraordinary Black Rock for Real World Records (for more information check out the catalogue page on this web site). Gasparyan will receive his prestigious award at the WOMEX Conference in Essen, Germany on 27 October. Real World Records extends congratulations to Gasparyan on this acknowledgement of his great talent and influence, and our honour to have worked with him on our label.
New Real World Records signing Pape and Cheikh from Senegal arrive in the UK next week to start their tour as support act for fellow countrymen Orchestra Baobab. Tour dates can be found on www.realworldrecords.com/tours. The new album Mariama is released on October 21 and is already gaining enthusiastic fans from reviewers who have heard it they really have been Senegals best kept musical secret! Find out more about this new album on www.realworldrecords.com/mariama.
"Spirit of the Century", released in April 2001 on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records, made the charts at Amazon, Billboard, Gavin, Barnes & Noble, and the Living Blues Radio Chart. Press coverage includes enthusiastic reviews in USA Today, People, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, GQ, Vibe, Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Nation, Billboard, L.A. Weekly, and Rolling Stone -- which calls the songs of "Spirit of the Century" "transfixing, (and) beautifully recorded ... in a drawling blues atmosphere."
Listen on -15 January BBC Radio 2 at 10pm
Sheila Chandra surveys the history of Asian music in Britain, reminding us how a folk dance called Bhangra was fist brought in by immigrants from the Punjab in the Fifties. It took me until I was 16 to appreciate the fundamental differences between Indian and Western music, she says. The Western variety is based on changes of chord , the Indian isnt one is extroverted, the other introverted.
When Tracy Chapman appeared on Later With Jools Holland for BBC tv recently she was charmed by the performance from Pape and Cheikh who were on the same show performing songs from their new Real World album Mariama. As a result she has asked them to be her tour support on her forthcoming European dates. They begin on 31 January in Roubaix, France and continue to Oslo on 7 March. Additional dates in the UK are still to be confirmed for Pape and Cheikh. Full details of the tour can be found at http://www.about-tracy-chapman.net
The Afro Celt Sound System have won the BBC Radio 3 Listeners Poll Award and made a surprise finale appearance at the awards ceremony in London last night.