A lot of you missed out on a really great musical and cultural experience Saturday night at the Kirkland Fine Arts Center.
I’m glad I made time to go, and I’d guess the others in the audience felt the same way.
We saw Baka Beyond, a world music group that performs songs based on the music of the Baka forest people of Camaroon. They mix in some Celtic styling, and what comes out is a unique and uplifting sound.
The seven musicians have diverse backgrounds and come from Great Britain, France, Ghana and Congo. They played music unlike I’d ever heard before, and I bet, unlike much of the audience had heard before.
Vocalist Su Hart sang like the Baka women of Cameroon. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it was a mixture of yodeling and bird noises.
She encouraged the audience to sing along, but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to imitate the noises she was making.
I did, however, join in by clapping and dancing. It took a while to get everyone on their feet, but by the end of the show, most of the audience joined in as well.
The first half of the show was slow going. The audience seemed to fill only a quarter of the auditorium, and everyone reacted to the performers like you might react to a serious play.
Their quiet observance brought an uncomfortable atmosphere to the auditorium, because the performers were trying their hardest to get the audience to wake up.
Baka Beyond more often performs at outdoor music festivals, and the reserved tone at Kirkland seemed to stifle their show at first.
Nearly halfway into the concert, Hart finally got the audience to interact with them when she came to the edge of the stage and yelled, “stand up!”
Slowly, the audience overcame their fear of being seen, and gave up the comfortable anonymity of their seats.
An African dance lesson from Denise Rowe at the end of the show finally drew most everyone to their feet.
Standing up and interacting with the musicians made it easier to enjoy and understand the music.
The music’s cultural background is grounded in the idea that everyone participates and contributes to the sound.
Once the audience started to help, it brought more life to the theater and to the show.
To everyone who attended and found the nerve to stand up and participate, thank you for a fun Saturday evening.
I only hope there will be more of us next time.
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