Sweet Honey in the Rock

I saw Sweet Honey in the Rock at Memorial Hall today.

Mesmerizing sums it up. Their lyrics were largely simple and repetitive - as are many gospel and spiritual songs. Yet their harmonies created a mind-blowing complexity and texture.

The highlight song for me was the number that portrayed the woman in Mali that so desperately wanted to have a child. The group shifted between English and African languages and used various traditional African instruments to convey a mother's pleading and eventual celebration. Nitanju Bolade Casel - middle right in this photo - seriously let it rip.

I've never heard any person or group so effortlessly use their voices as instruments. They simulated horns, guitars, wind, birds, and engaged the audience in a participatory round that replicated the sounds of a Central African rainforest. One of the singers, Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell, actually moved her hands as if she were playing a cello as she sang the bass lines for the songs.

Their music has a soul, a conscious, and, most importantly, appeal. No doubt, these women can sang!

Furthermore, the concert confirms that I don't hate a capella music after all. (I mean - The Beatles did a capella songs on both Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road. Plus, Rockapella used their vocal stylings on "Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?" to help me learn geography as a youngster.)

I just hate lame a capella music.