Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bela Fleck - Throw Down Your Heart (Rounder, 2009)

The banjo developed out of a rich African heritage, and American bluegrass and jazz musician Bela Fleck is acutely aware of this and long planned to investigate his instrument's origin. That chance came in 2005 when he traveled to Africa to play with musicians from that continent and to explore the roots and legacies of the banjo. Presented on this album (and a documentary film) are Fleck's collaborations, most of which work quite well, with the banjo sounding right at home with the djembe, kora and other traditional African instruments. The tracks that I found most enjoyable were "Ah Ndiya" recorded in Mali with beautiful accompaniment from Toumani Diabate on kora and the vocals of Oumou Sangare. "D'Gary Jam" benefits from the pulsing electric bass of Richard Bona, and was apparently was a jam recorded by Fleck in the States and then embellished by African musicians overdubbing during the trip. Regardless, it works well as an open ended experiment. The title song "Throw Down Your Heart" and "Buribalal" which were also recorded in Mali are also well done collaborations, melding the stringed and percussive instruments very well for a nice overall feel. I have always loved West African music, so I am partial to the tracks that were recorded in Mali, but all of the other collaborations on this album are solid as well. This was a well done cross-cultural collaboration, and I think that anyone interested in looking for the intersection between traditional music from America and Africa would find this album enjoyable.
Throw Down Your Heart -

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