The audience was drenched in motherland soul on Wednesday night at the Boulder Theater as Habib Koite, Oliver Mtukudzi and Afel Bocoum came together on one stage to perform an evening of beautiful, traditional African folk music.
The three artists took the stage together for the opening set of songs joined by a fourth guitarist, a drummer, a gentleman playing a small, gourd-bodied string instrument, and another guy alternating between hosho (shakers) and mbira (thumb piano).
A mostly seated crowd did have a few small dance sections up in the front corners of the theater, and it was amazing that more folks weren’t invigorated to by the delicate, inviting music to follow suit. The musicians themselves accompanied their playing with a substantial amount of dancing, at one point putting their guitars aside to get down.
The show mostly consisted of various combinations of the artists collaborating; solo spotlights, and full on string jams. “Mali-Zimbabwe” brought the entire crew out with Koite, Bocoum and Mtukudzi all taking a turn handling vocal duties. Each number was an absolutely uplifting and delightful display from the veterans of Mali and Zimbabwe.
Koite got down on his knees on the edge of the stage on several occasions to serenade the audience, and spoke jokingly in broken English about the luxury of having four wives, napping, and his shortness of breath in Colorado. He mentioned that he wished he could become a woman to be able to experience giving birth. During a solo song, Koite put his guitar down and played the recorder for a lovely number with bass and guitar accompaniment.
Mtukudzi, during a solo performance, humorously attempted to announce the name of a song that had apparently slipped his mind. “This next song…is for you,” he concluded. He spoke about how men are the head of the family in Zimbabwe, before leading into a song about “responsibility.”
Their rapport with the crowd was well received, and at one point involved a brief foreign language lesson. Despite a slight language barrier between the artists and the majority of the Boulder audience, the musicians managed to communicate verbally, and more importantly, musically with the enthusiastic crowd.
Learn more about Acoustic Africa musicians: Habib Koite, Oliver Mtukudzi and Afel Bocoum. "The second installment of IMN’s exhilarating musical journey focuses on the richness of the African guitar tradition. The Acoustic Africa tour includes Habib Koité, the Malian superstar whose exciting concerts have endeared him to audiences worldwide, Oliver Mtukudzi, the best-selling artist in his home country of Zimbabwe, and Afel Bocoum, a guitarist, singer, and composer from Mali whose songs evoke the evolution of traditional Malian society."