The Unsinkable Mali Blues
By Aaron Rowan
While Modesto Unplugged has been most closely associated with the Americana and folk genres, several of the most satisfying moments for me as a music curator have been those when we featured sounds from around the globe. One of my favorite showcases involved a classically trained soloist of the erhu, the two-stringed Chinese fiddle – one of the most beautiful instruments I’ve ever heard. Traditional tunes from South Africa, Russia, Finland and more have also been among our programming. Now, with an increased focus on world music this year at the Music At The GMC series, we’re ready to explore new and dynamic instruments and styles.
Mamadou Sidibe hails from the Wassoulou region of Mali in West Africa. Twenty-five years ago, he played a groundbreaking role in transforming the music of this region from its origins in hunters’ sacred melodies, played on six-string donso ngoni (hunter’s harps), into music of philosophical observations, politics and daily life. The donso ngoni originated several hundred years ago and was traditionally played for hunting ceremonies. Mamadou has helped expand the instrument’s range, creating 8-, 10- and 12-string versions called kamale ngoni.
Mamadou and his wife Vanessa perform original, soulful, poignant and uplifting music influenced by West African rhythms and southern American blues. Vanessa Sidibe, originally from New York, is an accomplished Afro-Cuban and salsa musician with an impeccable rhythm on percussion. She brings earthy depth and ethereal sensuality to all her vocals, singing in English, Spanish and Bambara (the predominant national language of Mali.) Mamadou & Vanessa are winners of several prestigious music competitions including the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
They’ll be with us on Saturday February 18, in the Gottschalk Music Center’s recital hall which you’ll find at 1502 E St. As always, doors are at 7:00, music’s at 7:30, and it’s $15 general or free for kids under twelve.
Also appearing this month at the GMC is Native American songstress Susan Toney, with her fusion of country, pop, rock, and R&B. Susan delivers a transparent, introspective collection of songs steeped in spirituality, encompassing the influences of her heritage. An award winner at the American Songwriting Festival and the Billboard Songwriting Contest, she captivates audiences with compelling vocals, profound lyricism and dynamic melodies. Catch Susan at 7:30 on Thursday 2/9. Get your RSVP in for these intimate, forty-seat listening concerts at firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> or 209-543-5306.