Today was one of those days performing in the subway that I will cherish. I arrived at my scheduled location at Union Square to find Salieu Suso an amazing Kora player performing in the spot. We've always talked about performing together and so I said, "why don't we just share the gig?" To which he replied, "why not!"
I started to set up when Richard Allen a commuter came by to talk to me about singing at his wedding. His wife and daughter had seen me perform at Columbus Circle a few weeks ago. I think it's really cool that seeing my performances in the subway inspires someone to want my music for a wedding. I've done a few (actually singing for my cousins wedding this weekend, but I digress).
Salieu and I started by him joining in on my song Question Of Desire, which within the first few bars I adapted to his playing and rhythm. I had to tune up a 1/2 step to be in tune with his 21 strings, and believe me it's a lot easier to tune 6 strings with modern machine heads than tuning 21 strings that are tuned by pushing up a ring made from animal hides. The Kora is made from a large gourd and it's played in front of the musician with both hands not unlike a harp. It's from West Africa and Salieu sings songs as the storyteller in Africa it's called the "Griot" a common and much respected role in the village. So why would it be a stretch for a white girl playing and singing the blues jam with a black man playing the Kora? It's world music. The combining of styles. Anyway the blues came from Africa, nurtured in the US with Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker to name a few, then ironically discovered by groups like the Rolling Stones who truly gave those artists a chance to be appreciated in their own country. Such a long and windy road for the blues. There we were in Union Square. What a lovely sight to see people realizing what they were seeing and hearing.
Throughout the day I'd play a few songs and then Salieu would play a few songs, each time the other finding our groove and place within the others style. I'll tell you my wrist is tired from all the repetitive finger picking. Songs in the Griot style are long and use a lot of rhythm.
I'll be putting together a clip of our day and will add it here soon. In the meantime here's a picture.
Union Square where the current advertising is for the Lion King. what could be better than Salieu Suso a Kora player? photo by Richard Allen