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Musical Coup Takes Beecher Park
by David Sepulveda | Aug 9, 2013 7:12 am
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Music, Westville
A crowd gathered at Westville’s Beecher Park Monday, some with high expectations, some wondering what to make of the soon-to-perform band with the quizzical name.
The Afro-Semitic Experience, a Connecticut-based band that has been lauded by music critics and appreciative audiences wherever they play, took their turn under the giant Copper Beech tree. It was the third in a summer concert series event sponsored by Westville Village Renaissance Alliance and the Mitchell Branch of the New Haven Free Public Library. Click the video above to watch a sample.
Also on the bill were stone fruit pies, as in peach and cherry and others fruits with hard seeds at their core, in the second installment of the Hi-Fi-Pie Contest open to amateur bakers. There are still opportunities to enter for the two final two rounds of the Pie-Fest; cream and freestyle pies will be featured on Aug. 12 when the band Like Violet entertains, followed by the apple and pear pie category on Aug. 19, with musical guests, Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps.
For music lover Aric Isaacs, who helped bring The Afro-Semitic Experience to the concert series, booking a band that tours nationally and internationally was a musical coup of sorts. Being familiar with the band and acquainted with the band’s co-founder, David Chevan (bass), Isaacs said the band was a perfect fit for the summer concert series. Other band members include Warren Byrd (band co-founder and pianist), Abu Alvin Carter (congas), Alvin Carter Jr. (drums), Will Bartlett (tenor saxophone) and Saskia Laroo (trumpet).
Band elder Abu Alvin Carter (pictured on conga), welcomed the audience with words that are emblematic of the band’s philosophy, if not social mission: “You are a proud garden of people. You are not the white race or the black race, or the yellow race or the red race, but the human race of which we are all a part.”
Band co-founders, David Chevan, who is Jewish, and Warren Byrd, who is African-American, had a clear vision from the outset: “The Afro-Semitic Experience is an ensemble dedicated to preserving, promoting and expanding the rich cultural and musical heritage of the Jewish and African diaspora.” Through a weaving together of a broad spectrum of musical styles and traditions underscored by a message of unity, spirituality, and the sheer love of music, the Afro-Semitic Experience develops a quick rapport with audiences eager to participate in the world-beat vibe. See a video of their Pharoah Sander’s classic, The Creator Has a Master Plan, here.
The versatility of the band and power to engage its audience was evident as bassist David Chevan urged those gathered to create a big circle before launching into some good old fashioned Jewish wedding music: “There is nothing better than holding hands and jumping up and down in a circle” he said. Those gathered in the warm glow of the music and palpable sense of community, did not disappoint. Join the party already in progress here.
The musical performance was attended by a large number of families with small children, many taking in, perhaps, their first experience in ethnic, multicultural world music. Luckily, more music is on the way, as the band prepares to release its new recording, “Jazz Souls On Fire.”
Returning to the microphone to introduce the Hi-Fi Pie Fest winners and judges—Kara More and Lisa Totten of the Six Pence Pie company (now in Westville)—was pie event organizer Naomi Senzer. Winners of the contest were: First place: Marie McDaniels, pluot pie, Second place: Rebecca Martin, apricot almond pie, and Third place, Beyla Ridky, with her peach pie entry.
Tags: music, Afro-Semitic Experience, library, pie contest
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How enlightening to create a band that crosses cultural backgrounds and produces harmony and good will through musical presentation. Looks like everyone who attended enjoyed the event.
Under a similar premise, I recently saw an Algerian music group, El Gusto, at a LIncoln Center Out of Doors performance. The musicians were of Algerian Jewish and Muslim backgrounds who lost contact when the Algerian war ended in the 1960’s. Being torn apart, the Jewish members moved to France while the Muslim members remained in Algeria. Several years ago, a young woman located and reunited most of the 42 members who are now between 72 and 98 years old. About twenty of the band members are currently on tour in the United States. Like the Afro-Semitic Experience featured in this article, they play music of an ethnic nature and express their joy at being together and being able to bring harmony between people of two diverse backgrounds through the music they produce.
Once again, kudos to the Afro-Semitic Experience for what appears to have been an enjoyable concert and for promoting the philosophy of ethnic unity through the music they create.