All Alone with Paul Robeson:
The Tallest Tree in the Forest
The Mark Taper Forum - April 19, 2014
Who is the real Paul Robeson? The Tallest Tree in the Forest or the biggest windbag in Los Angeles? It wasn’t clear to this reviewer last night at the opening of the new one-man play about Robeson by actor Daniel Beaty at The Mark Taper Forum at The Music Center—until half way through the performance—when he sang Zog Nit Keynmol—Never Say—the Warsaw Ghetto anthem penned by Hirsh Glick, the 22-year old Vilna poet who wrote the song upon hearing news of the Jewish resistance to the Nazi attempt to liquidate the ghetto on April 19, 1943, as a birthday present for Adolph Hitler, who was born on April 20—today, as I write this review on Easter Sunday, Hitler’s birthday.
ANNUAL BENEFIT CONCERT
Saturday April 26 8pm
Reception at 7pm
Our annual benefit concert has always been a fun, ear-opening event and this year promises to be no exception.
SANTA MONICA Woman's Club
1210 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
(near Wilshire & 4th St.)
Tickets: $20 general admission,
$25 VIP reserved seating
Info: concerts@FolkWorks.org 818-785-3839
Emcee Tracy Newman
Always entertaining, Tracy may throw in some of her own songs.
Los Angeles’ all-natural hillbilly and country blues band, combines the traditional sounds of fiddle and banjo breakdowns with the low-down sound of country blues, topped off with a touch of ragtime and hillbilly jazz. The versatile acoustic ensemble features fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, washboard, and a few odds and ends.
The popular Los Angeles-based women’s chorus that brings to life vocal folk/roots traditions from around the world. Their songs range from Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Bosnia to Rom and Sephardic songs - as well as recently added American and Irish music. Their spellbinding harmonies are at the core of their eclectic repertoire. Whether a simple American song or the complex harmonies of Bulgaria the voices of Nevenka’s women are sure to move you. While mostly singing a cappella, they are occasionally accompanied by percussion, mandolin, guitar, citern or panduri.
Swing Riots Quirktette
The Swing Riots are comprised of 6 core members who have played for decades in everything from Balkan dance bands to traditional Swing groups. They perform an irreverent gumbo of Gypsy & Creole Jazz, Klezmer & Romanian Horas, Parisian Musette & the occasional wild card thrown in for good measure.
Tunacious is a Celtic genre-bending band with songs and dance tunes with a blowout contra dance to wind up the evening.
(Click on hyperlink for tickets)
Series at the Talking Stick Café
FolkWorks Benefit Concert April 26th
Swing Riots Quirktette, Sausage Grinder, Nevenka, Tunacious
emcee: Tracy Newman
Rose Garden of Peace Concert May 31st
With Yuval Ron Ensemble
The Young Lady with Strong Sweet Voice
In my last column, I mentioned that the Battlefield Band’s latest album, Room Enough for All, had been named album of the year at the 2013 Scottish Traditional Music Awards. The awards this year were, I think, interesting in the way that they reflected the shifting and merging of the old and the new. The composer of the year award went to Donald Shaw, founding member and keyboard player of Capercaillie and the driving force behind the annual Celtic Connections festival. Though certainly a member of the “old guard” of modern Scottish music, he is also known as one of its most innovative and creative players.
The Scots Singer of the Year award usually goes to someone who fits the standard image of a tradition-bearer; someone of fairly advanced years who has a long history of learning, singing and sharing the old bothy ballads and travelers’ songs. Not so this year… the award was given to Siobhan Miller, a young lady whose strong, sweet voice is among the newest in the genre. Siobhan could easily have taken the folk singer-songwriter path, but instead she’s dedicated herself to learning and preserving the old songs.
Folk music is always going to evolve. If it didn’t, then it would cease to be the peoples’ music as the people left it behind. I find it reassuring to see the young and the older musicians joining forces both to preserve the past and shepherd the future.
If you’d like the results of the remaining Scots Trad Award categories, they are online.
TITLE: AMY HANAIALI’I AND SLACK KEY MASTERS OF HAWAII
LABEL: PETERSON PRODUCTIONS
I took one look at the cover of this CD and concluded that it was a shoe-in for the 2011 Grammy for Best Hawaiian Music Album. After five years of awarding it to compilations of slack key guitar music, the mucky-mucks could enjoy a refreshing twist on their love affair with slack key. Celebrated vocalist, Amy Hanaiali’i, who has lost out to slack key at the Grammies more than once, had teamed up with five masters of the beloved guitar tradition: Cyril Pahinui, Sonny Lim, Dennis Kamakahi, Jeff Peterson, and Chino Montero. It’s a dazzling collaboration and thoroughly enjoyable listening. Did it win the Grammy? No! This year the award for Best Hawaiian album went to a vocalist of more limited gifts than Amy and no hint of slack key guitar on the cover. Go figure! We move on...
Although it was recorded in a studio, Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii has the flavor of a live concert. The musicians each get a turn being center stage, accompanying Amy, in some cases singing with her or playing slack key with one another. Not only do they display their gifts as musicians; in some cases, they showcase their own compositions.
Prolific Dennis Kamakahi sings his delightful country-style E Mau Ke Aloha in Hawaiian and English, accompanying himself on guitar with room for a guitar solo by Chino Montero. Kamakahi shines as a slack key guitarist and vocalist, his deep rich voice combining with Amy’s in a poignant song composed by Queen Kapi’olani in the late 19th century Ipo Lei Manu.
Cyril Pahinui is keeper of the slack key tradition that his father, Gabby “Pops” Pahinui revitalized and popularized. Cyril shares vocals and plays guitar in a trademark Pahinui number, Hi’ilawe with Jeff Peterson adding his own slack key sound to enrich the accompaniment. Pahinui does a lively interpretation of Miloli’i on vocals and guitar with Sonny Lim spicing up the song with well-chosen steel guitar enhancements.
Amy sings her own composition Keawa Nui with loving attention to the art of falsetto that makes it clear why the mantles of falsetto greats Lena Machado and recently-passed Genoa Keawe have easily remained on her shoulders. A ukulele solo by Jeff Peterson kicks it up a notch.
Chino Montero gets to demonstrate his male falsetto singing and solid slack key technique in Makee ‘Ailana. Dennis Kamakahi plays one of the two slack key solos in this number, enlivening it with a contrasting style. I confess I have not followed Montero’s career as I have the other participants in this album, but I think he performs at a level that is harmonious with his peers.
An all-instrumental number, Vaqueros, brings together composer Sonny Lim with Montero and Jeff Peterson for a flamenco-flavored hats-off to the cowboys who brought the guitar to Hawaii.
I would be negligent if I did not mention the way Jeff Peterson’s talents permeate this album. No fewer than six of the sixteen cuts feature his compositions. My favorite is Pukana La on which he plays solo. He creates an otherworldly feeling with unusual chord progressions, sweet-voiced picking, and sensitive rubato. We also hear Peterson’s eclectic musicianship on eleven of the numbers, mainly slack key but also including classical guitar on Vaqueros and ukulele in Keawa Nui.
In the end, this is still Amy’s album. She opens with Fields of Gold by Sting, bringing to it heartrending nuances. Nevertheless, I find the song a strange choice for an album in which she and her friends otherwise celebrate Hawaiian culture and landscape. The mention of “fields of barley” made me wince despite the added Hawaiian lyrics. Do they even grow barley in Hawaii? Shouldn’t it be “through ponds of taro (traditional Hawaiian staple crop) or to use the old Hawaiian word kalo? Hmmm. The trouble is those ponds have you thigh deep in mud. I’ve been there. As we trudge through the sludge-ponds of kalo? Definitely not as romantic as barley fields. Enough! It’s a great album!
Audrey Coleman is a journalist, educator, and passionate explorer of traditional and world music.