The second problem is site location, the cramped and dangerously congested Old Arab Fort. It’s beautiful, but a disaster waiting to happen, what with vendors in makeshift booths using open flames to light their unstable tables. Meanwhile a contiguous amphitheater lies empty. DUH. Considering that problem number three is the annoying down time between single-stage sets and the resulting short set-times, it seems like someone might come up with the brilliant idea to alternate between the two stages, thus spreading out the crowd and moving things right along, too. Considering that video screens are already there and in use, such a plan is easily conceivable. What it takes in extra lights and equipment could easily be saved in recovered down-time. I’d hate to see what might happen if a fire broke out in the over-packed space, IN DARKNESS, crowd scrambling for only two narrow hard-to-find exits. But the show must go on, of course.
Ah, the show, now that’s the good part. Disgusted by the logistical snafus of both show and city- power off all day is wasted time all day, after one day at least, and power off at night is downright dangerous, I decided that I just couldn’t sacrifice more than one full day and two evenings of my life to this project… but what I saw was eminently enjoyable, and I don’t mean just the stars, either. I saw five acts each of the first two evenings, and I think that those would be representative of the talent available. The first evening started for me with Ikwani Safaa Musical Club from
The next evening I resolved to arrive a bit earlier to catch the opening act, and was well rewarded. The very first act was a group of disabled performers, including two dancers up front that kept me fighting back tears. These two guys, who’ve probably spent their whole lives hearing names like “Flipper” and “Tuna Boy” directed at them from cruel buddies, not only danced their hearts out with gymnastics and acrobatics, but were… SO… HAPPY… doing it. How could I have ever bemoaned my own fate of such comparatively minor handicaps? The band itself I didn’t even realize was disabled until the set was over, so that says something. The music was that good, that I wasn’t compensating for their disabilities in my mind, ‘handicapping’ them, so to speak. They may not be the next Benda Billi, but then again they just may. A group called ‘Swahili Encounters’ was next and did a really nice job of offering a balanced palette of music from a variety of African countries, reflecting the origins of their members, and including the Swahili coast. Maureen Lupo Lilanda of
The evening’s big star, though, was the next performer Malick Pathe’ Sow, currently a hot item on the world-music circuit, who delivered an exquisite performance, but did something which I feel deserves mention, if not an explanation. After an excruciatingly long time for set-up and sound-check- mostly due to