Béla Fleck – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Auditorium – Saturday, January 17, 2009
After the screening of the documentary titled “Throw Down Your Heart” (moved to Friday January 16 due to his trip to attend the presidential inauguration in Washington), banjo superstar Béla Fleck and his combo made their debut with Africa’s best, achieving great success.
He started with one of his own pieces, played solo, in which he ended playing with his nose. He later introduced ngoni virtuoso Bassekou Kouyate. The ngoni is an ancestor of the banjo. Kouyate and several African percussionists brought the African night ambience to the Concert Hall.
Béla returned on the third piece, where he introduced Scottish artist Kathleen McInnes, who sings in Gaelic and performed a beautiful song without any accompaniment.
Next came Toumani Diabaté, who was limping, and received a great ovation. Béla reminded the audience that Diabate’s recording “The Mande Variations” is a Grammy candidate this year for best traditional world music album. His versatility and masterful technique were evident after he sat down with his large robe in front of his kora, playing a delightful slow piece. His father, Sidiki Diabaté, recorded the first kora album in history in 1970.
And just before the usual 20-minute intermission, Oumou Sangare played a piece together with Béla on banjo, Toumani on kora and Liam Ó Maonlaí on flute.
It was Liam who returned after the break with a love song, again without music, which raised the hairs of the back of my neck. He dedicated it to the victims of the recent air attacks and shootings, a feeling shared by the audience expressed by a large ovation. What’s interesting is that at the end he remained quiet, with his head lowered, seemingly not wanting an applause.
Next came pieces by Béla y Toumani and another by Béla and Liam on flute.
We were reminded of Bela’s DVD documentary as well as Liam’s (about his journeys with Paddy Keenan throughout Malí) called “Dambé, the Mali project”.
Close to the end, Kathleen performed a piece that Béla composed at the Amsterdam airport, with all 13 participating musicians on stage. “An experiment” said the composer. It is clear that it was not well rehearsed.
The lengthy African pieces led several members of the audience to dance in the lateral aisles.
The encore was 8 minutes long, bringing together Béla, Toumani and Oumou to say good bye for the last time.