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African beats

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Because it's a place that gets very little media coverage, most of what we hear about Africa is not good--Darfur, Burundi, DR Congo, Samuel Taylor and so on. We're fortunate here to have an increasing number of opportunities to experience an altogether different and more positive side of African life. The Triangle--in particular Durham--continues to be a hub for a growing number of African musicians and artists. And more acts are making this area part of their itinerary. There are two outstanding chances coming up to hear some truly great West African music. Next Tuesday, Aug. 31, Mamar Kassey, an eight-piece band from Niger, plays the Cat's Cradle. Having seen them, I can tell you their stripped-down orchestration is deceptive. If you're a drummer, go. You'll see one drummer work a hand drum and talking drum at the same time, while another turns a calabash into a full kit using his rings, a pillow and a pzm microphone. If you're not a drummer and just want to dance or get lost in a unique blend of Nigerian juju and North African gnawa, go.

Another major event coming up is the visit in mid-September by master percussionist Mamady Keita, winner of several gold medals from various drumming competitions and at one time dubbed the Best African Drummer. Since his initiation into the world djembe at age 7 in 1957, the Guinean native has performed and taught throughout the world. Look for his visit to include classes and performances. We'll keep you posted. Quick Props Here's to Durham Music Festival organizer Robert Stromberg, assistant organizer Jason Fagg and North State Sound's John Koelle, who steered the third annual Durham Music Festival through a successful weekend. Even by the Sunday post-party at Joe and Jo's they were still ambulatory, coherent and helpful. Asked how his weekend went, Stromberg deadpanned, "I walked 16 miles around downtown Durham." Somebody buy this man a new pair of shoes. September Shows Drive-By Truckers at the Lincoln Theatre (Sept. 25), Wilco at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (Sept. 25) and David Byrne with string section and all at the Carolina Theatre in Durham (Sept. 19). One down note: The London Symphony Orchestra's "Music of Holywood" tour has been cancelled and the RBC Center performance along with it. Damn. Now how am I going to get the overture from Where Eagles Dare out of my head?

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