Summer might be the time for outdoor music festivals in scenic locales, but, then again, some of us prefer air-conditioning, a bar within easy reach and a taxi home. So, thank goodness there’s a couple of festivals in Tokyo, too.
Inspired by last summer’s success, promoter Conversation will once again host the sprawling Light My Fire world music festival. Among this year’s attractions are the Caribbean Magic Steel Orchestra, Bali’s Suar Agung, Cuba’s Vocal Sampling and, the festival’s must-see, Orchestra Baobab.
Orchestra Baobab’s genteel, Cuban-tinged dance music was the toast of Senegal in the 1970s, but they lost most of their audience once the fiery Youssou N’Dour appeared on the scene. However, a record the band made in 1982, “Pirates Choice,” was released last year on Nick Gold’s World Circuit label, and its critical and commercial success prompted the band to reunite and record “Specialist in All Styles,” another fine offering of Afro-Cuban music. Orchestra Baobab recently played two packed shows in New York, where they showed that age and a long hiatus hasn’t diminished their penchant for smoldering rhythms and colorful, quirky guitar solos.
Also in its second year, Gypsy Summer 2003 will feature both live bands and DJ parties. With too much music to list, the highlight of this event will be Taraf de Haidouks’ two shows.
Taraf de Haidouks are no strangers to Japan — nor the rest of the world — having logged more than 1,000 concerts in the past decade. Oddly, just a handful of these shows have been in their homeland of Romania, where their Gypsy origins keep them on the margins of society — one film made about them was titled, “A Prophet is Never Honored in His Own Land.”
Their 2001 live album, “Band of Gypsies,” shares the name of one of Jimi Hendrix’s albums — and though the music is a world apart, this record also contains incendiary soloing to raise the roof.
Opening for one of Taraf de Haidouks’ shows will be the formidable Gyspy swing guitarist Tchavolo Schmitt, one of the more worthy musical descendents of Django Reinhardt. Though Schmitt’s low-key approach to the business side of music keeps him well under the radar of most music fans, he has a strong cult following. For Taraf’s other show, the opening band will be Tokyo’s own Ego Wrappin’. What’s a Japanese band doing in a Gypsy music festival? As last year’s “Food Night” showed, Ego Wrappin’ can swing with the best.
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