Hello, this is Joanie
So Joan Baez is back, as active in the peace movement as ever, but musically souped-up for the 90s too? We found it hard to believe until Alastair Mabbott brought back this report.
‘l'm happy to say l‘ve been ferociously attacked by the right and the left.‘ boasts Joan Baez when asked if she's still hounded by reactionary forces. ‘lt means I’m doing something right. What’s interesting at the moment is ifyou go out and do something which is basically humanitarian. that‘s a different story.‘ Her recent visit to Sarajevo is. then. ‘one ofthe few times nobody's found something to grumble about.‘ it was also one of the most moving experiences she‘s had in a long. long time. ‘The pretence at normalcy was such a thrill. To pretend that things were going on as they had before the war and they had an entertainer in town. Those people are everything I had heard about them. very much like Londoners in the Blitz. putting on their best clothes and going to work. whether there was any work for them to do when they got there or not.‘
At 52. Joan Baez thinks it‘s high time she stopped being a relic and got back into the mainstream again. Her recent comeback album. Play Me Backwards. was the result of a ﬁve-year process of ﬁguring out how best to present herself in the music industry of the 90s and then going ahead and doing it. Eventually. with a new manager. a new record contract (with Virgin) and the crack Nashville songwriting team of Wally Wilson and Kevin Greenberg. Baez got as conscientious about her music as she had always been about her'political
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activities. Well-chosen songs by Mary-Chapin
Carpenter. John Hiatt. John Stewart and collaborations with Janis lan jostle for space. while
i the album benefits from a greater awareness ofthe
importance of rhythm. Baez feels a lot more contemporary than she did when she toured two years ago. And the primary motivation for such
I radical reinvention'.’
‘Boredom. l was bored with what i was doing. and i felt sure my audience was too. And I literally woke up at 2am -- l was making the album before this — and i had one of those lighthulbs above my head. and just said. “Why are you working on another album that nobody‘s going to hear and allowing all this to be second-string in your life when your main gift is your F vocal cords?” ‘
She is unlikely ever to dump her humanitarian activities — her music will drop by the wayside first. But all those things she has fought for since the late , 50s. side-by-sidc with her fellow pcaccniks . . . and the world is as messy and war-tom as it ever was.
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Isn't that enough to make even someone as committed as Joan Baez want to throw in the towel? Perhaps surprisingly. no.
‘For some reason. i was blessed with a no- expectations approach to my political. non-violent activities. I think it's maybe partly because. having been drawn to non-violent social change at a very early age. 1 think i understood somehow that patience was going to be a large factor. Whereas. if you take a teenager who‘s just found his or her politics and wants everything to happen now . . . nothing happens now. And ifyou add to that my feeling that the behaviour of the human race has been so atrocious
I for so many centuries. there’s no particular reason to
think it's going to change now. On the other hand. that has never stopped me wanting to raise the foundations ofour consciousnessjust a tiny bit so we
‘ can‘t sink any lower. It's a pretty modest goal. I'm
just very strict about it.’
Joan Baez plays Glasgow Royal Cancer! Hall on
Wed 1 9.
um"- African ambassador
long before the current wave of interest in African music began, a saxophonist from Cameroon brought together the lessons absorbed from American lazz with the native forms of his homeland in an internationally successful fusion. Manu nlbango’s massive 1972 hit “Soul Makossa’ took him from the jazz clubs of Paris to the Apollo in Harlem, an experience he recalls as ‘the heaviest rhythm section in my life’ as the audience loined in on maraccas and tambourines.
with a jazz sensibility.
Menu llibango Manu llibango originally came to Paris in 1949 to study, but ended up devoting his time to music instead. In Paris at that time, ‘every band thought
it was hip to have a black saxophonist or trumpet player’, and he was often taken for an American. He moved on to Brussels, and through his connections there, returned to Africa in the early 60s, where a series of records he cut in Belgium with the singer Kabaselle sold in droves, and established his reputation for playing African music
That fusion was to make him a star in due course, but there was another decade of paying dues in Africa (where he came under fire for having a white wife and Western musical influences) and back in Paris before he hit it big with the bright, infectious dance grooves of ‘Soul Makossa’ and
He has continued to pursue his ‘llegropolltaine’ philosophy of
combining African melodies and rhythms with jazz and other western forms in a succession of albums, including ‘Super Kumba’ (1974), collaborations with Jamaican stars Sly and Robbie in ‘Gone Clear’ (1979) and ‘Ambassador’ (1981), a string of strongly African recordings, the jazz standards on ‘Soft And Sweet’ (1983), and the electric soundscapes of ‘Surtension’ (1984), ‘Afrilazzy’ (1986) and ‘Polysonik’ (1990), the latter recorded in London with Working Week’s Simon Booth as producer. in
the process, he has opened the doors to many others to follow, but he : remains the senior statesman of § African music abroad. (Kenny ; Mathieson) Manu llibango plays at The Pavilion on ‘ Sun 16.
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