The recent hype surrounding alternative-music venues demands the mention of a larger alternative venue.
House concerts, listening rooms and art spaces doubling as venues are a wonderful thing, but a park conversion to outdoor music space isn’t a bad idea, either. It works for Buckley Park, a space that has seen lots of action, from apple festivals to bike polo tournaments. Everyone from local musicians such as Kirk James and Carute Roma to out-of-towners including Drag the River, The Iguanas and, most recently, The New Orleans Suspects have all performed there.
The next special guest to Buckley will take the stage for an early show Friday afternoon. Tami Graham, whose many hats include one for concert promotion, will bring Zap Mama to the park. This is one of only three dates the band will play in America on this tour. It’s not a huge venue, but it’s big enough to accommodate up to 1,500 people within walking distance for those who live downtown or mid-town Durango.
Zap Mama is Marie Dualne and her six-piece band. Dualne is a vocalist of Belgian and Congolese descent whose introduction of world-beat music to Western audiences shouldn’t go unrecognized. Singing folk, gospel, jazz, hip-hop, reggae and more, she combines those styles with an international influence that transcends her sound well beyond the American take on that music. Her collaborations with everyone from G. Love to Michael Franti, the Roots to Janis Ian, have likely turned thousands onto musical sounds from outside their own backyard. It’s music that is international and cutting edge, appealing to anyone from fans of run-of-the-mill pop music to the most obscure of international artists in the most obscure record stores.
Dualne’s main mission behind her music and in her shows is to spread a positive message with an idea of unity, while finding ways to integrate the audience. Recently she began introducing a new concept into her shows, a “Vocal Flash Mob.” Like the concept of the standard “Flash Mob” where choreographed dances spring out of nowhere featuring dancers who may have never rehearsed together, the Zap Mama “Vocal Flash Mob” uses audience participation, with cues coming from Dualne. Songs in the set list that are part of the flash mob are posted on the Zap Mama Web page.
“I post songs on my website and people can learn them. Some arrive with the bass line, some arrive with the beat-box and some arrive with the harmony,” Dualne said. “People learn online and be part of the show by singing in the audience. It’s a unifying idea, another step forward that many musicians are taking, breaking down that invisible wall existing between the stage and the ticket buyer. For me, the part of the music piece is not only being able to sing, if you love music, if you just clap or snapping, its part of the music. For me, everyone has a sound and a voice to be heard. If we put all our skills together it becomes the music. This is what I want to offer.”
Opening the show will be Onye and the Messengers, a California-based Afro-beat band led by Nigerian-born percussionist Onye Onyemaechi, who is also a teacher, African drum historian and activist. Onyemaechi could give the headliner a run for her money, but with the Messengers, who also will play the after-party Friday night at the Summit, he’s a force, leading a percussion-heavy electric band combining traditional African rhythms over guitar leads.
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.