Baaba Maal, Sunday evening's headlining musician at the Hollywood Bowl, supports all African teams in the World Cup, but especially Ghana. During a phone interview on his way to San Francisco and subsequently Los Angeles, Maal said that he sees "young people in Ghana that believe in themselves and it would be great to see the world finally recognize that."
Performing on Sunday as part of KCRW's World Music Festival, held every summer at the Hollywood Bowl, Maal strikes a balance between laid back artist and internationally dedicated philanthropist representing his continent. The lineup for Sunday's concert also includes Tinariwen, Fool's Gold, and Yeasayer - a motley crew to say the least. Members of Tinariwen hail from various parts of the Sahara and Algeria, Fool's Gold is largely made up of LA locals, and Yeasayer is based in Brooklyn. Regardless of where they're from, the underlying connection between the four acts is how deeply African music has influenced their style.
And not just music, really. There's a responsibility that is unavoidable as an African artist, says Baaba Maal. When you perform in a third world country for crowd of children living in poverty, for example, how can you not garner a feeling of responsibility for shedding light on their issues? Members of Tinariwen spent an unfortunate amount of time in a rebel training camp in Libya, not to mention that their band came together during a long period of exile 30 years ago. With experiences like that, how does a musical group, whose name translates into "deserts," not feel an obligation to spreading a message around the world of what's happening at home?
The general feeling of collaboration and merging otherwise mutually exclusive musical styles is another thing tying these artists together. In interviews with each of the artists, the carefree spirit of experimentation was evident. Fool's Gold enthusiastically spoke of their first gig at which they'd heard Tinariwen's music in the background before they went on. Having played numerous shows with them at this point, that they're "now meeting again in LA, [Fool's Gold's] desert, is thrilling and really feels like things have come full circle."
That many of the artists' albums are multilingual is still more proof of how desperately they hope to reach audiences of all shapes, colors, and backgrounds. A perfect theme, really, for KCRW's World Music Festival - exposing Bowl audiences to sounds previously unheard and lifting the veil on a new city for artists who've come from near and far. Many of the artists will embark on summer tours nationally and worldwide and you can find more information on each artist's individual website. Listening to their music will undoubtedly make you only want to hear more.
- By Nicole Campoy-Leffler