Live Concert Photography: BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival!: Amadou and Mariam and Innov Gwana at Prospect Park Bandshell 7/21/17
Although it’s gone through a couple of different names throughout its history, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is one of the oldest, summer-long outdoor concert and performance series in New York, started back in 1979. And from its first performances, the Festival’s mission has been to bring Brooklyn residents — and those, who love and enjoy all things Brooklyn — together in a safe, harmonious setting to enjoy and celebrate the vibrant cultures that made Brooklyn one of the most diverse places in the entire world. In fact, as the organizers strongly emphasize, “We believe it is especially important to use artistic platforms to reaffirm the very basis of what Brooklyn and America is — a welcoming, supercollider of ideas and cultures, informing and enriching each other. ”
Throughout the Festival’s history, the Prospect Park Bandshell has hosted both established and emerging artists across a large and adventurous array of styles and genres including American roots music, world music, classical, jazz, pop, alt-rock, indie rock and hip hop among others, and as a result the Bandshell can claim an impressive and lengthy list of artists have played on its stage, including Dr. John, Maceo Parker, They Might Be Giants, The Neville Brothers, Talib Kweli, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Beck, Hugh Maskela, Joan Armatrading, Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Seun Kuti, Mavis Staples, Marco Benevento and countless others. They’ve also hosted an equally adventurous array of cultural and artists performances including dance recitals, large scale film showings and more. And much like its ambitious citywide counterpart, SummerStage, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival has an impressive lineup featuring Lake Street Dive, Alice Smith, Bilal, The Shins, Lisa Loeb, Yeasayer, Poliça, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pharaoh Sanders, Brooklyn Raga Massive, JOVM Mainstays The Soul Rebels, Lila Downs, Orkesta Mendoza, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Eric Krasno, Joan as Policewoman, Conor Oberst, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Yossou N’Dour and others.
Last month, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at Prospect Park Bandshell hosted the Grammy Award-winning Malian folk/Malian blues duo Amadou and Mariam, and New York-based traditional Moroccan act Innov Gwana for a night of diverse music from the African Diaspora.
Comprised of Bamako, Mali-born husband and wife duo Amadou Bagayoko (guitar and vocals) and Mariam Doumbia (vocals), Amadou & Mariam are a Grammy Award-winning act, who can trace their origins to meeting at the Mali Institute for the Young Blind, where they both performed in the Institute’s Eclipse Orchestra, directed by Idriss Soumaouro and discovered a mutual love of music and performing. Between 1974-1980, Bagayoko split his time playing with the Eclipse Orchestra and in the renowned West African collective Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako.
The couple married in 1980 and by 1983 they began writing and performing together while Bagayoko continued with a successful solo career and ran the blind institute’s music program. By 1985 Amadou and Mariam began to make a name for themselves playing the Malian blues, based around sparse arrangements of guitar and vocals, and as a result of a growing national profile, the duo embarked a tour of Burkina Faso, and by the following year, they relocated to Cote d’Ivoire, where they recorded several cassettes. Around that time, they had met Stevie Wonder, who championed the duo and they saw a growing international profile, which included playing at many of the world’s biggest festivals.
Since the late 1990s, the Bamako, Mali-born duo have experimented and experimented with their sound and aesthetic, as they’ve released material that meshes the traditional Malian blues with rock-based guitar, Syrian violins, Cuban trumpets, Egyptian ney, Indian tables, Dogon percussion and even American funk in a style that the duo have dubbed “Afro-blues.” This was inspired by their relocation to Paris in 1996, where they signed to Polygram’s Emarcy label — and by 1998, they released their first album outside of Africa, Sou Ni Tile, an album which featured hit single “Je Pense a toi.”
2004’s Dimanche a Bamako found the duo collaborating with World/Latin music artist and producer Manu Chao. Chao not only took up production duties but contributed his vocals to several tracks. By the following year, their Cote d’Ivoire recordings were released on CD for the first time as a limited edition box set and best of collection 1990–1995: Le Meilleur Des Annes Maliennes. But by far, the duo may be one of the most commercially and critically successful Francophone African acts of their day — the aforementioned Dimanche a Bamako not only won the French Victoire de la Musique Prize for best World Music Album of the Year, it was awarded platinum by the French Ministry of Culture, after selling 300,000 copies. The album also won two BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in the African and Best Album categories.
With a rapidly growing profile, the do went on to collaborate with Herbert Gronemeyer on the 2006 FIFA World Cup theme song “Celebrate the Day (Zeit days sich was dreht),” which topped the German charts. Adding to a growing international profile, the duo played two of the US’ major festivals Coachella and Lollapalooza, which they followed by taking part in Damon Albarn‘s Africa Express project at 2007’s Glastonbury, playing on a bill that included Rachid Taha, K’Naan, the legendary Tony Allen, Fat Boy Slim and Tinariwen.
2008 saw the release of their Grammy Award-nominated sixth full-length effort Welcome to Mali, and the album found the duo collaborating with K’Naan, Keziah Jones, -M- and Damon Albarn; but perhaps more important, album single “Sabali” landed at number 15 on that year’s Pitchfork Top 100 Tracks of the year, and was one of the most-played French language singles globally in 2009. Among other career spanning highlights Amadou and Mariam have shared stages with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Coldplay, Theophilus London, Beth Orton, Krystle Warren, U2, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Shakira.
And if you were frequenting this site back in 2008, you may recall that I wrote about a single or two off their eighth full-length album, 2012’s Folila, and the album which was recorded in Bamako and New York found the duo collaborating with Santigold, Scissor Sisters‘ Jake Shears, TV on the Radio‘s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe and Bertrand Cantat among others.
“Bofou Safou,” the first bit of new material form the world renowned, blind, Malian duo finds them further experimenting with their sound — with the single being a breezy, slickly produced, synth-based club banger with an infectious hook that sounds as though it were inspired by Beck, Talking Heads, house music and Afro pop. And while promoting their latest material, their BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival set was a rousing, career spanning set that had the Prospect Park Bandshell dancing. Be on the lookout for a full-length from the Malian duo later on this year. In the meantime, check out Amadou and Mariam’s “Boufou Safou,” and then photos from the show below.
Comprised of Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer, Samir LanGus, Ahmed Jeriouda, Amino Belyamani, Said Bourhana and Nawfal Atiq, the New York-based act Innov Gwana initially developed a reputation locally for their Western/North American take on Morocco’s trance-inducing folk tradition, and for being the first gnawa act to be selected to play as part of the Music Under New York series. Since taking part in Music Under New York, the New York-based Moroccan folk act has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists across a diverse range of genres including Americana, New Orleans brass, and Algeria’s reggae-based gnawa act Gnawa Diffusion. Their set opening the night was a gorgeous set featuring some of the most hypnotic, trance-inducing and truly timeless music I’ve heard in some time.