Why travel? New York City
Periodically, over the past few days since arriving here in New York from San Francisco, we've joked "why travel when you can simply visit The City and have the world come to you". No visa requirements, no shots - and the trains run on time.
Japanese food one night, Thai the next. Our second night in town we went to see the great Wassoulou singer from Mali, Oumou Sangare. Oumou and her band were in town for one show during their third tour of the States. The Town Hall audience was a diverse group brought together by a common appreciation for the power of this woman's art.
The Wassoulou region has produced a remarkable number of great women singers since Mali gained independence in the early '60s. The music style is based on local dances and rhythms such as the didai, the bari, the sigui and above all the sogonikun, a traditional masked dance performed mainly by young girls during the harvest.
The key traditional instruments of the Wassoulou sound is the kamalengoni ("young man's harp" - as compared with the older man's kora?) and the djembe (drum). In addition to a kamalengoni player (Kassim Sidibe) and a djembe player (Bassidi Keita), Oumou's band included guitar (Mamadou Diakite), flute (Abdouleye Fofana), bass guitar (Hamidou Ba) and two back-up vocalist/dancers (Nabintou Diakite and Alima Toure).
In addition to being a top-notch songwriter and performer, Oumou is a champion of women's rights, a social commentator and a spokesperson for her generation (she's 31) and sex.