3/25/14 – Paradise Rock Club

“His song was gentle. His song was strong.” The final words to the song reverberated through the black stillness of the Paradise, echoing above, through, and around the audience as if their own bodies were permeable to the sound.

After roughly three seconds of stunned silence, there was an appropriate and expected roar from the crowd. These lyrics encapsulate the powerful-yet-gentle style of music showcased by the musicians who have come to name themselves The Melodic.

Ode to Victor Jara tells the story of a notable Chilean musician and activist who changed the world around him through his music. His gentle songs played an essential role in social upheaval during the 70’s and 80’s, proving their undeniable strength.

The songwriting of the band was powerful but what really set The Melodic apart was their instrumentation. Instead of featuring the typical lead instrument of rock music, the guitar, The Melodic employed the Charango. This ten-stringed instrument originated in the Andes of Bolivia. With its high frequency, the Charango easily cut through the rest of the band’s sound, making for an excellent leading tone.

Something must be said about the drummer too – who was one of the most dynamic I had ever seen. At one point he used his fingertips on the high-hat to create a subtle, pulsating build-up. Many songs featured the melodica as well, likely a partial inspiration for the band’s name.

Every instrument had its own place in frequency– the shaky, yet confident voice of Huw Williams– the smooth, emotive voice of Lydia Samuels– the bass, charango, nylon string guitar, and the drums. Few instrument sounds overlapped with others in pitch, blending together to create a clear and wide spectrum of sound, comparable to that of a sound recording.

Somewhere between the guitar breaks of a precisely and abnormally accented full-band call and response, I realized I was in the presence of a group of talented musicians who had both the ability to write pop-hits such as On My Way, and unmerciful instrumental breakdowns of raw energy. Their latest album, Effra Parade, is definitely worth purchasing.

The Melodic ended their set, and the stage went dark. Soon thereafter, men in robes appeared. The robes were mostly white, plain, and without decoration. Tinariwen, the lords of the evening, filled the stage and the venue with their presence. Originating from the Saharan Desert region of Mali, Tinariwen, meaning “deserts” in Tamasheq, serve a unique and groove-based blend of guitar rock. The members of the band are themselves Tuareg, descendents of nomads who wandered the desert for many generations. The latter is evident. All of their songs have strong grooves, guiding the inevitable physical movement of the audience. The music itself sounds like traveling: Islegh Taghram Tifhamam.

Currently there is no administration in northern Mali, making it increasingly difficult to survive without the societal perks that we take for granted. Because of this, Tinariwen recorded their latest album, Emmaar, abroad in Joshua Tree, California.

The rhythm section of Tinariwen was impeccable. It’s hard to imagine that complex rhythms such as theirs could be the product of one hand-drummer. Said Ag Ayad, the drummer, and the bassist Eyadou Ag Leche (who plays a right-handed bass, upside-down, in left-handed position, without resetting the strings), lock together in complementary, and uncanny ways. At one point Said played in a 12/8 groove, while Eyadou played in 3/4 time. The bass constantly pushed the song forward, playing in the spaces between the hits of the hand-drum beat. Together, the two of them kept a strong, head-spinning groove.

The music of Tinariwen is enchanting, and mesmerizing. You do not have to speak Tamasheq or French to understand that Tinariwen’s music is burdened, but ultimately undaunted by the unrest in their homeland. The music is filled with nostalgia, goodwill, persistence, and most importantly, hope for a better future.

ANTI-Records' Uncontested Takeover of The Paradise
  • Excellent live performance by world-class musicians.
  • A long performance, indeed.
9.3Overall Score

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