A Percussive Afternoon

I have been to many musical performances in my life; I absolutely love the experience of live music. The majority of these performances have been in the vein of Western music, from classical concerts to rock festivals. However, this past Sunday I attended a musical event at Catlett that centered on Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and it was a very different experience from any past musical event I could recall attending. The “Souza Percussion Duo” consisted of five pieces, and each one was enchanting. A multitude of percussion instruments were played throughout the concert, ranging from marimbas 10 times my size to drums to woodblocks to cymbals.
While the Western ideal in music is usually a single, clear melody backed by one or several harmonies (whether vocal or instrumental), I learned that in traditional African society the ideal sound is “fuzzy”. Just as Westerners prefer clarity in music, Africans and those who follow in their musical traditions strive to create a network of complex and layered melodies. This was reflected in the fact that at most times, both of the musicians were holding two mallets in each hand. This gave them the amazing capability of creating several intricately intertwined melodic lines at all times.
Another interesting aspect of the structure of the songs was their melismatic quality; they often sounded floating and otherworldly. Rather than having a sharply defined structure or a single time signature at any point, as is the case in much Western music, the focus was on the patterns and rhythms, and the way that they combined to create a mosaic of sound. I had never experienced this approach to music. I enjoyed it immensely, and have certainly been inspired to attend more non-traditional concerts focused on the music of places like Africa and the Caribbean.