Saturday, January 17, 2015

High Desert Mbira: Jaka and "Walking"

Walking by Jaka on Grooveshark

I will admit something. I have complicated feelings toward Santa Fe, New Mexico. Why? I live in Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico but which also has an inferiority complex toward the state's capitol, Santa Fe. When tourists come to New Mexico, they usually land at the airport in Albuquerque, rent a car, and drive straight to Santa Fe. When events are held in Albuquerque, such as our amazing Globalquerque world music festival or our fantastic Tricklock Revolutions avant-garde theater festival, it seems to be the rare Santa Fe resident that drives down for it while Albuquerqueans will often make the hour-long trek to Santa Fe for their festivals and happenings. In fact, once at Globalquerque I overheard two young men who attended because they won tickets on a Santa Fe radio station. "Wow," I overheard them say. "This is great! I never knew Albuquerque could have anything like this!" It's that type of stuff that drives me wild, because I live in Albuquerque but I like to go to Santa Fe on occasions, such as when I attend their wonderful folk art market, or see a music act that has toured there, or go to a museum such as the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, or hike in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I know Albuquerque is an arts town, even though it may not seem like it, with over 40 theater groups and many great artists. I know that we have good food in Albuquerque, including James Beard award winning restaurants and chefs. Santa Fe is a really interesting town with some wonderful things to see or do, but I wish that Albuquerque would get its due as a destination in its own right, rather than being the stuff on the freeway that you have to drive through to get to Santa Fe. I suppose rivalry breeds innovation through competition, but I wish that since we live in a poor state that could use exposure to the outside, Albuquerque and Santa Fe could be partners, not unequal but both perceived as being unique and interesting in their differences.

Certainly, what contributes to my complicated feelings is that many great artists, musicians and writers live in Santa Fe. Jaka is one example. Their tune Walking is our random tune for today. Jaka is an Afro-Pop Funk dance band that was begun by Dan Pauli in the mid 1990s. They play ancient songs, and modern compositions using a mix of contemporary and traditional instruments, such as mbira and marimba. The band has a fluid lineup around five core musicians, and also offers marimba and drumming classes at their Santa Fe studio. Walking is from their third album, 2014's Glow.