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ISSUE 116 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/2/2003

Culturally 'Speaking'

By Jared Wall
Contributing Writer


Friday, May 2, 2003

It is hard to experience half of the world’s culture in one night, but it was proven to be possible last Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Pause. The world-music band “Speaking In Tongues” brought together four incredible musicians from Africa, Mexico, China and even a Minnesota native.

Sowah Mensah, a multi-instrumentalist composer, and Marc Anderson, an extraordinary percussionist, gave an unforgettable percussive performance as they combined a souped-up American drum set with West African bongo drums. One would never think that such a euphonic blend could come from drums with such different tones and characteristics, but the duets between Mensah and Anderson were magnificent. The fast beats and rhythmic melodies seemed to mimic the heartbeats of the concert-goers.

Gao Hong, another member of the group, is a world-class and world-renowned pipa (pronounced “pea-pah”) player from China. Her movements on Wednesday were beyond graceful, and her energy and charisma were blatant. She was able to manipulate her four-stringed pipa, a 2000-year-old Chinese instrument, to imitate rainfall and the Chinese language.

The combination of rolls, slaps, pizzicato, and harmonic noises that Hong produced can be more adequately described as poetry in motion rather than music.

Hong’s pipa is a multifaceted instrument capable of slow love ballads, intricate classical pieces, and rock-and-roll progressions.

Enrique Toussaint, an amazing jazz bassist from Mexico City, rounded out the ensemble. Enrique played the electrical bass with fantastic dexterity and slapped the bass with sheer enthusiasm. Toussaint is a renowned bassist who has played in many groups and produced many CDs.

Mensah is a native of Ghana, and has performed extensively in the United States and Latin America. He is a professor at Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and is currently at work on his second solo album, as well as on a composition for a full orchestra.

Anderson is a born and raised Minnesotan from Austin, Minn., and has performed extensively in North America and Europe. He is a music educator in the Twin Cities, and is also at work on his second solo album.

“Speaking In Tongues” put on a memorable show. The cultural music that the band brought together is not usually compatible with ensemble pieces, as any musician could tell you, yet the group blended their unique heritages and talents in a mosaic of musical aptitude that was brilliant and beautiful.





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