Wednesday, April 19, 2006:

Dama and D'Gary

Dama and D'Gary -- Hiakatra Sa Hidina
D'Gary -- E! Nama Inona Ny Anzaranao
Once upon a time I decided I wanted to play guitar, so I bought one and jumped in. I loved Jimi Hendrix but I'd bought an acoustic, thinking maybe I should start simple. Armed with a half-dozen chords and the most rudimentary understanding of rhythm, harmony, and melody, I was ready to bore and annoy myself playing, and I did, until I didn't anymore, which happened when I decided that maybe my time was better spent on other things.

Later I discovered Django Reinhardt; he was equally inspiring and intimidating. I'd put him or Jimi on and lay back in awe, struck by the skill and grace. I didn't understand everything they were doing--I didn't understand a fraction of it--but I didn't doubt that once they put that guitar on they said exactly what they meant to say with it.

Some time back I bought Dama and D'Gary's The Long Way Home beause I'd heard good things about it. I mention this because someone at allmusic thinks D'Gary is one of the world's greatest guitarists. I'd been inclined to say that he is impressive, but the liner notes say that the songs on the CD I'd been most impressed with, "Hiakatra Sa Hidina" and "Mitady Kandra," are both played by Dama.

(The liner notes also say that "Hiakatra Sa Hidina" is about capitalism versus socialism. Based on its mention of unity, I'd imagine it finds in favor of socialism, preferring community interests to a quick buck.)

And then there's D'Gary's album Malagasy Guitar/Music from Madagascar which shows that, yes, he is in fact quite good.

"E! Nama Inona Ny Anzaranao" is, like Tom Waits, also from an alternate universe. But this one is one where Godzilla bleeds to death from a cut foot and Bambi goes back to eating grass.
[ review]
[RFI Musique biography]
[Dama and D'Gary -- Long Way Home]
[D'Gary -- Malagasy Guitar/Music from Madagascar]

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This is extraordinary music. I went right over to emusic and downloaded "The Long Way Home." (Both albums are available there.)

I'm not knowledgeable about African music, but I don't think I've ever heard any that is so familiar-sounding and accessible. Is it the Portuguese influence in Madagascar? Or just the common roots? It's not just virtuoso. It's lovely and lively and bursting with character.

And there's even a Jazzfest connection. Two songs on the album have backup slide guitar by Sonny Landreth, who will be at Jazzfest on Sunday afternoon (unfortunately at the same time as Walter "Wolfman" Washington, setting up yet another schedule conflict).

Amadou & Mariam also have some very accessible African music (Mali, in this case). I haven't posted them yet mostly because Tofu Hut and others already have posted some of their best work. They're quite good, though, especially Dimanche à Bamako

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