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Clark Winter Music Series to Feature West African Artists

For Immediate Release

December 31, 2002

Contemporary musicians from the former French colonies of West Africa will be featured in a winter music series at the Clark Art Institute. The series "Out of Africa: Music from Algeria, Mali, Guinea, and Senegal" will be offered on selected Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. beginning January 25 with a concert by Senegalese rap artists Gokh-bi System. Also performing will be musician-storyteller Mamadou Diabate (February 22), Afro-pop artist Alpha YaYa Diallo (March 8), and guitarist Pierre Bensusan (March 22). Tickets to each concert are $19 ($17 for members), and are available at the Clark museum shop or by telephone at 413-458-2303, extension 324.

Gokh-bi System, a five-person group from Senegal, reclaims the African roots of hip-hop, bringing together the ancient tradition of the troubadour storytellers known as "griots" with politically savvy, uniquely Senegalese rap traditions. With group members from the Jola, the Serer, and the Wolof peoples, Gokh-bi System ("Neighborhood System" in Wolof) performs globally aware music in five languages. Their performance style, which they call "Ekonting rap," combines traditional drums, ekonting (a string instrument from southern Senegal), and urban and village dance styles.

Born in Mali, Mamadou Diabate is descended from a long line of jeli, the musician-storytellers of the Manding people of West Africa. Jelis use music and oratory to preserve and sustain people's consciousness of the past, stretching back to the 13th-century when the Manding king Sunjata Keita consolidated the Empire of Mali. Diabate is a virtuoso of the kora, a twenty-one stringed gourd instrument with an unusual, harp-like sound. His recent CD Tunga blends traditional Malian music with American blues and Mandenka and Gambian styles of kora playing.

Afro-pop guitarist and singer Alpha YaYa Diallo, from Guinea in West Africa, is one of the hottest performers on the world music scene. His 1999 CD The Message won a Juno award for best global music recording. Diallo is known for his melodic acoustic and electric guitar playing as well as his skill on percussion instruments including the balafon (a wooden xylophone). His songwriting unites traditional and contemnor styles. Diallo first drew attention as a member of Fatala, a group of West African musicians recording for Peter Gabriel's Real World label, and has lived in Vancouver since 1991.

French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan draws on the musical idioms of Ireland, North Africa, and Brazil in his original acoustic tunes. Born in Oran, Algeria, Bensusan moved to Paris at the age of 4. He taught himself guitar at 11 and was greatly influenced by the folk revival in Britain, France, and North America. His 1976 debut album Pres de Paris won the Grand Prix du Disque at the famed Montreaux Festival in Switzerland. In 2002, he won the Association for Independent Music's award for best acoustic instrumental album for his CD Intuite. Bensusan works in the unusual DADGAD tuning and is lauded by fellow musicians for his virtuoso finger picking technique.

The concert series is offered in connection with the exhibition Renoir and Algeria, which opens at the Clark on February 16. The show will feature studio paintings done in Paris as well as landscapes, portraits, and images of life in Algeria inspired by Renoir's trips in 1881 and 1882.
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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