Telluride Library celebration: Strauss and Mamadou concert, 3/23

Telluride Library celebration: Strauss and Mamadou concert, 3/23

[click “Play” to hear Susan’ interview with Walter Strauss]

The American Library Association awarded Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library a five-star rating for the second year in a row. The celebration continues with a FREE concert at the historic Sheridan Opera House, 7 p.m. (Doors at 6:30 p.m.) featuring string diplomacy, a unique cross-cultural collaboration between American guitar wizard Walter Strauss and Malian kamal’ngoni (hunter’s harp) master Mamadou Sidibe. The unique combination of finger-style guitar and West African hunter’s harp, interweaving melodic grooves, lively improvisation and songs in two distinct languages, feels altogether soulful and at once ancient and modern.

Strauss has pushed the borders of the Big Open, Rawlins, Wyoming, where he was born. Working with musicians from West Africa to Australia and Finland, he has successfully woven together world beat, Americana, and jazz into layers of highly articulated melodies and harmonies, rhythms and counter-rhythms, a genre uniquely his own.

“Imagine blending the beauty and strength of Bruce Cockburn’s fingerstyle guitar playing, the gravity of Joni Mitchell’s jazz, and the elegant simplicity of American roots,” raved Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange.

Before embarking on a solo career, for over 15 years Strauss performed as an ensemble musician at concert venues, theaters and festivals throughout the United States, Canada, England, and Ireland. He toured extensively with Rounder Records’ eclectic folksters The Burns Sisters Band and riffed alongside numerous first-rate musicians, including fiddle legend Vassar Clements and Celtic guitar wizard Martin Simpson. Of late, Strauss has been performing solo and with The Walter Strauss Trio: bassist Sam Bevan (David Grisman, Joe Craven) and drummer/percussionist Kendrick Freeman (Alison Brown, Rob Ickes). For the past five years, he has also engaged in unique cross-cultural collaborations, including the one with Sidibe.

Mamadou Sidibe played a groundbreaking role in transforming the popular Wassoulou music of Mali.  He was one of the first to break with tradition by creating the now widely used eight-string kamale ngoni, a lute-harp-like instrument that emits a deep, soulful sound.  Sidibe broadened the songs from sacred hunters’ melodies to a popular music of philosophical observations, politics and daily African life.

“At the center of his music is the same sensibility that you’ll find in Muddy Waters: a sense of music as a tool for the recreation of everyday life into something special, even magical,” wrote Stylus magazine.

Since settling on the West Coast, Mamadou Sidibe amassed a pile of  awards, including Grand Prize at the John Lennon Songwriting Competition (World Music) and winner of the Billboard’s Songwriting Contest (World Category).

As an added treat, the evening opens with a performance by Renee Wilson.

To learn more about the upcoming concert (which is being recorded live at the Opera House), click the “play” button and listen to Strauss’s podcast and watch the You Tube video of him in performance with Sidibe.
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