Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 2010 Flashback: Atlantic Melody at Hidmo

Originally posted in 2010 on my old site, rewritten Feb 2013 for this site.

I took my daughter who is visiting from out of town to see Atlantic Melody at Hidmo in the International District on Sunday. This was one of their Sunday live African music shows. Atlantic Melody is a percussion band from Guinea.

As we pulled up and parked, we could see that the block had no power. Walking up to Hidmo, the entry was fairly dark, just a few candles, with a few more in closer to the crowd and the performers, along the walls and on the tables. The restaurant was hopping with people at tables and dancing around and the room, the candles giving a warm but dim glow to the show. Unfortunately, with the light that dim the only useful pictures use flash, which totally misrepresents the experience. Here's a picture, but imagine it dialed down low and dim.
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Something about the flickering low reddish orange firelight makes me relax, and the rhythm enfolds us. You can't help moving to the rhythm, and some of the little kids were busting out advanced moves, becoming part of the show with their amazing precocious dancing. I caught one kid doing some break dancing moves in this picture:
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Once again, imagine the venue as being pretty dim and flickering in a red orange candle light, the trick dancing was occasionally mysterious and perspective warping as I peered into the dimness and kids are flying around on their hands and doing fast arm and leg movements that defy my weak vision.
The video gives a better sense of the dimness, although it overstates it a little - we could see a little more detail than the camera is able to pick up. For an acoustic set the drums were quite loud which makes the recorded audio distort.

Listening to the rhythms as the crowd danced and the kids boogied in the dim flickering candle light got us into the moment.

I suspect they had some guitar and bass type instrumentals that would've normally been part of some of the songs, but without power they dropped any instruments that need amplification.

We ended up being treated to a pretty pure rhythm show. Something about the pounding energy of the songs draws you into the collective moment, listening to the beats and responding with motion, sweating a bit and breathing a little harder as the musicians pound away and trade solos off and just generally have a great time laying down a groove.

For a mildly energetic crowd reacting with enthusiasm to a show, it was less crazy and more peaceful than most shows that get some intensity going. Lack of alcohol probably figures in, but the it was more than that. There was a communal buzz to the show and no wall between the performers and the audience - no stage, they were on the same level as us, they shared instruments out into the crowd on occasion and the dancing was a big component of the show.

This was the sort of show that challenges my language skills. The vocabulary that works best is spiritual: a communal grace spread with the music and the motion feeding back into each other, easing our mental burdens and bringing the crowd and the musicians closer spiritually, wiping away our differences and communicating to us on the level of our souls through rhythms, somehow.