Archive for September, 2003

Summer(stage) of African Music

I saw three fabulous African acts at SummerStage over the past few months.
First was Oumou Sangare on July 2. On a night of female Malian singers, Ramata Diakit? opened the show and was wonderful, but Oumou’s politically charged yet joyous follow-up took the night. The audience was alive and the sheets of music kept us all swaying. Pick up Ko Sira. You won’t be disappointed.

Not a week later, Senegal’s legendary Orchestra Baobab rolled into town on July 6. Folks were sad that Cuba’s Sierra Maestra was held up in customs, but Baobab more than made up for it with a raucous show, including a infectious rendition of Bul Ma Miin that had people dancing in the aisles and on the stage! For new school Baobab, check out Specialist in All Styles. Folks who want to see why these guys were forced out of retirement after 15 years may want to check out Bamba or the forever bootlegged and now legit Pirate’s Choice.

Lastly but certainly not least was Guinea’s Bembeya Jazz National on August 17. The weather wasn’t as gorgeous as it could have been, but it’s testament to the group’s fantastic musicality that a large number of people stayed through the rain and lightning, dancing and splashing to the beat. When the sun finally came out towards the end of their set, the music seemed to help it punch through the clouds. Ridiculously good stuff. Check their new disc Bembeya for a primer. Yet another wicked good African group to come out of retirement recently. (Bembeya was out of the limelight for just one year less than Baobab.)

Overall, SummerStage was nothing short of excellent. The groups they booked were world class, the sound was better than a lot of indoor venues, and at the price — free — well, it’s just irresistible!

Falling in Pits is Fun

I couldn’t play much of Toshihiro Nagoshi‘s last game, Super Monkey Ball, before storming off in frustration. I mean, there is definitely something pure and beautiful about the game — the design so simple, the control spot on, the level geometries astounding, the characters hilarious, and many of the mini-games fantastic. It was just the unforgiving falling in pits that turned me cold after a few ultranarrow tightrope acts.

Strange, then, that his follow-on game — a game based on a similar kind of tightrope act (only this time in a ship instead of a ball, racing other ships instead of the clock, oh and at 1400 mph) — would be so totally entrancing that now I’m willing to endure the Nagoshi-patented ever-regular pit plunge over and over. In fact, I’m begging for it. Give me narrower paths, fewer guardrails, more difficult jumps, more risky shortcuts! I’m up to the challenge, I promise. Gimmie! GIVE ME!

I’m still trying to figure out why I prefer this new installment in the age-old F-Zero franchise over rolling monkeys down steep inclines. Maybe it’s just that the game feels a bit more forgiving. One thing is for certain, though: Nagoshi-san has found the sweet spot for me. F-Zero GX rocks my tank.

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