Some musical inspiration

If I had to choose only a handful of albums to listen to for the rest of life, they would be the albums of Pink Martini and Angelique Kidjo.  On Thursday, Angelique Kidjo returned to the Seattle area in a brilliant concert at the lovely Edmonds Center for the Performing Arts.  She surprised us from the outset with a small set from the South African artist, Vusi Mahlasela, who was also appearing in his own concert elsewhere in Seattle this weekend.  When Angelique took the stage, she explained that when she sees another African artist is performing at the same time she is, she calls them up and offers them to share her stage so she can show us the beautiful diversity of music from Africa.  Then she was off with her characteristic style to present a concert that was more moving than when I saw her last, and got a Seattle audience on their feet dancing.  This is no small feat.  She even said she knew what she was up against (and still, at the end there was a pocket of people who somehow found the ability to remain seated).

I believe it next to impossible to describe her music and what her concerts feel like.  While her albums are brilliant and certainly give you a taste of what you are in for, there is nothing like seeing her live.  She is intoxicating and infectious.  She summons her soul into her voice and projects it in to you.  She sings strength, joy and love; not merely “about” these— she simply is them.  She is a treasure.

All she is was greatly supported by the wonderful venue.  They allowed us to dance in the aisles (the sniper ushers at other houses in town would have picked us off one by one for having too much fun at a concert), and the sound was excellent.  I cannot wait to see more events there.

Why am I writing about this concert on my food blog?  Food is not all I am, or all I do, or all I want to do.  To compartmentalize one’s interests is to say that one does not affect the other, which is not true.  My interest in music affects my interest in art, which affects my interest in photography, which affects my interest in food, which affects my interest in science fiction, which affects my interest in ballroom dancing.  Reading cookbooks only gets me so far.  You have to find inspiration in anything around you.  Seeing a brilliant concert says to me, “If Angelique Kidjo can spend two hours singing and dancing her soul, then I have no excuse not to reach for that same level in the kitchen.”  I’ve been feeling creatively drained lately and I feel that her concert has primed my creative pumps, revved them up to push me to get going on things stewing in my head, both in the kitchen and out.  Sometimes you need to do something outside your focus in order to get your focus back.

Adding to this pump priming was also the annual trip to the Wintergass Bluegrass Festival this weekend.  Can I handle so much inspiration in a week?  This year the festival moved from its longtime home in Tacoma to the culturally vapid confines of downtown Bellevue, Washington.  We really missed the lovely Baptist church and old theater that were two of the venues in Tacoma.  However, the music gave a good scuff to Bellevue’s shiny patina.  We saw many bands.  The stand outs for me were The Infamous Stringdusters, The Wilders and Dry Branch Fire Squad (you have to love bluegrass band names).  The joy of bluegrass music to me is its amateur nature (“amateur” certainly not meant to mean “unprofessional”, now).  To me, coming from a trained music background, playing music by ear and memory as many bluegrass artists do is completely beyond me.  I do not get it at all.  I was horrible at scatting in jazz choir and I cannot improvise or harmonize on a melody worth a dime (but I can sure analyze the harmonies and sight-read my line).  There are many kids at Wintergrass and to see them jamming with the old-timers in the hall, picking their banjos with the best of them is as inspiring as being infected by Angelique Kidjo’s voice.  When the bands go into their jamming interludes, I am in awe of their “being in the zone”, instinctively knowing where your band-mates are going.  It was a full day of wonderful music, and here are some of my photos from the festival.

With ears still ringing, I feel ready to set out on a new dessert menu....