So, as I mentioned, not only did we recently see a fantastic play but we also saw two great musical performances at the Old Town School of Folk Music. This was only the second and third time I’ve been there but every time I walk in it makes me wish I played a musical instrument. (Perhaps I should have listened to my mother when she tried to make me take piano lessons. Too bad I just memorized the movements instead of actually learning how to read the music. Oops.)
The first concert was called Acoustic Africa and featured Habib Koité, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Afel Bocoum. All of the musicians are from Mali and Zimbabwe but somehow met and started performing together in Germany last fall (at least that’s what I think I gathered from what they were telling us). It was pretty fascinating to listen to them talk about their experiences and cultures at home (often joking about the other country and claiming theirs as the best) and think about the contrast to what they must see and feel as they travel the world now as musicians. The music was lively and full of soul, even if I don’t have a clue what any of the lyrics actually meant. I felt like I was in a room full of eccentric professors from the University of Chicago who were going to go back to Hyde Park and have really interesting dinner parties with this as their background music. (Note to self: remember to start playing music during dinner parties.) There’s something really hopeful to me about a room full of such diversity – both the audience and the performers crossing their own boundaries – coming together to celebrate beautiful music and cultures so different from our own. Perhaps Habib articulated that hopeful feeling best when he said “I very much love my life. I hope you feel the same way too.”
The next night, we went an entirely different direction and listened to traditional Irish music from Lúnasa and Altan. The speaker introducing the bands described the combo as being like having The Beatles and The Rolling Stones both playing in the same place on the same night. Now, as a testament to just how little I know about music, I’m not really sure what to gather from that analogy other than that they’re both really good. And they both were, so I guess we can leave it at that. The crowd was a little different for this performance. My favorite audience member was a little boy who tapped along the entire time as his siblings tried to sleep. The only thing that could have made this concert better was a bartender serving up Guinness as if we were actually in Ireland. Maybe we’ll just have to go back to Doolin.