Rhythm in the night

I have learned to expect good things to happen when I’m sitting in Laxson Auditorium. And last Thursday’s concert by Malian guitarist Habib Koité and his five-member band Bamada only strengthened my opinion of the consistently fine quality of the acts Chico Performances is presenting there.

Koité plays intensely polyrhythmic music based around his gentle singing voice and exquisitely picked guitar, embellished by an intricate interweaving of melodies from a wooden xylophone (balafon) or electric violin played by master musician Kelétigui Diabate.

But, gorgeous as the interplay of the melodic instruments was, it was the rhythm section that really knocked me out. The brilliant, ecstatic playing of percussionist Mahamadou Kone on a variety of small drums that he played standing up, or dancing, with a combination of finger tapping and a small curved wooden beater was, for me, the highlight of a concert that contained no low points. And during the section of the concert that allowed each band member a chance for an uninhibited solo, bassist Abdoul Wahab Berthe cut loose with several minutes of hair-raisingly intricate picking that belied the subtle, laid-back underpinning he provided during the rest of the concert.

With several well-earned standing ovations and a beautiful encore number, Koité and Bamada left an audience that won’t soon forget the brilliance of an evening spent in the company of rhythm.