A Controlled Environment
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.
I was going through some old photos yesterday and came across these shots from the Bonsai room that the Brooklyn Botanical Garden from five years ago. This one really stood out because of the color of the changing leaves.
I miss my bonsai trees.
I've been listening to a lot of Orchestra Baobab since I returned from Anne and Pete's place in Roselle last night. It was the first time I made it to their home since they moved out of town (and the neighborhood) and they've put together a beautiful home. Anne and I got to talking about Cuba, for some odd reason. I think she mentioned that a relative is enthralled with it, to the point of having visited the island proper.
Not counting my mandatory visits to Guantanamo Bay when I was serving in the Navy, I've been to Cuba twice myself, so I grok the allure. Having just finished work on a story on Cuban sandwiches it's also fresh in my mind. Even with the current embargo, Cuba has served as a vital nexus between the Old and New worlds. It served as a frequent port-of-call during colonial times. The cultures and traditions of African slaves and Spanish colonials were absorbed by the native populace, who then added their own flavor and returned the favor to West Africa, who absorbed what the Cubans added and made it their own. That Afro-Cuban music still influenced West Africans even during the early embargo years was amazing; we didn't get to hear it until five or six years ago. I remember the first time Baobab played HotHouse and there were some anti-Castro Cubans in the house grooving on the music. We always got a handful of them at Cuban-themed shows; the night HotHouse was shut down in 2003 for license infractions Orquestra Aragon was on stage. But that's a story for another time.
On this particular night with Baobab on stage, someone asked for a rum-and-coke with a lot of lime. I was still at the point where I would enjoy a drink or four behind the bar during a show, and when he raised his glass and said "Cuba Libre" I (wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt) returned the toast with my beer and said, "From this side of the bar, she already is." I was feeling my oats, to say the least, and had to be pulled away from the bar when we started arguing.
You can hear the cross of influences in Orchestra Baobab's music. The sax is pure jazz, the melodies reminiscent of son montuno, the vocal harmonies come from Senegalese Wolof tradition. It all coalesces here in the song "Cabral" from A Night at Club Baobab. I'm sharing it with you below, along with the rocking track "Kelen Ati Leen" which is a guaranteed rump-shaker that betrays some serious funk influences that would make both James Brown and Fela proud.
Orchestra Baobab: "Cabral"
Orchestra Baobab: "Kelen ati Leen"