Posts Tagged ‘bela fleck’

A musical trip to Africa

August 7, 2009

Tonight NWFF begins it’s week run of Throw Down Your Heart, a documentary that follows banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck as he travels through Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Mali, “soaking up traditional sounds and styles all the way” as the Seattle Times puts it.

Says the Times:
“Carrying a boyish sense of wonder and a musicologist’s hunger for anything new, Fleck shares his fingerpicking genius with a coterie of natives, many of whom have never seen or heard a banjo.

But Fleck is also truly interested in gaining the knowledge and insight of his collaborators. In dusty villages or makeshift shanties, he carries on a string of musical conversations that are improvised or carefully crafted in a spiritual back-and-forth of melodious dialects.

…His banjo is a remarkable foil for a variety of African pop and folk styles. Fleck finds the nuance of harmony whether he’s accompanying a 12-foot marimba or a chorus of kalimba finger pianos.

This is an honest journey into discovery that reveals the connection music brings between cultures where commonality is not always easy to find..”

Read the whole review here.

Adds the Stranger:
“Fleck comes off as a genial dork, like a Rick Steves of the banjo, and a few scenes mine either chuckles or sentimentality from his sometimes awkward but earnest ambassadorship. The best moments, though, are those in which the cameras and microphones simply capture the music being made by Fleck and these musicians, and the film contains many such moments.”

Tickets are selling briskly! Get yours today.


“Throw Down Your Heart” in NYC this weekend, coming to Seattle in August

April 24, 2009

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming up in NWFF’s summer calendar. We will be showing the new documentary Throw Down Your Heart on August 7-13, 2009.

Award winning documentary Throw Down Your Heart follows banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck as he travels through Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Mali in search of the little known roots of his instrument and cross-cultural musical collaborations. A multiple Grammy-winner for jazz, bluegrass and classical recordings, Fleck suddenly finds himself a wide-eyed novice as he encounters a dizzying array of African languages and cultural traditions. But his musical conversations with both talented amateurs and international stars such as n’goni lutenist Bassekou Kouyate and Malian diva Oumou Sangare are testaments to music’s ability to connect people across superficial divides.

Directed by emerging auteur (and Fleck’s younger brother) Sascha Paladino, Throw Down Your Heart is an enthralling journey and a moving celebration of music and humanity.

The film was reviewed in today’s New York Times:

A Musical Journey

Published: April 24, 2009

The gentle, upbeat documentary “Throw Down Your Heart” chronicles the African pilgrimage of the American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck in search of the origins of his chosen instrument, which he sheepishly admits is “associated with a white Southern stereotype.”

Béla Fleck, left, in Sascha Paladino’s documentary “Throw Down Your Heart.”

At every stop on a journey that takes him from Uganda to Tanzania to Gambia and finally to Mali, Mr. Fleck plays and records with gifted local musicians. Early in the film, a Ugandan villager insists that the common perception of Africa as a continent ravaged by war and disease is “just a very small bit of what Africa is,” and “Throw Down Your Heart” sets out to prove him right.

While traveling, Mr. Fleck encounters reminders of the slave trade. At a seaside port in what used to be German East Africa, he is told that an enslaved African, upon seeing the sea and the ship, understood that there would be no returning and was advised to “throw down your heart.”

Mr. Fleck, a gentle, curious man of few words and formidable talents, is a benign presence. In a Ugandan village his banjo accompanies several local musicians playing a 12-foot xylophone. In Tanzania he collaborates with Anania Ngoliga, a master of the African thumb piano, an instrument consisting of metal tines of varying length attached to a wooden board. It is in Gambia that Mr. Fleck encounters the akonting, a primitive three-string forerunner of the banjo whose preservation is the mission of a troupe known as the Jatta Family.

In Mali he meets and plays with the great guitarist Djelimady Tounkara and the diva Oumou Sangare, a national idol and phenomenally gifted composer and singer. When Ms. Sangare sings a heartbreaking lament of “a worried songbird” searching for her father, you don’t need to know the language to be gripped by the force of her cry.