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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Throw Down Your Heart
Directed by Sascha Paladino
Argot Pictures 04/09 Documentary
Here is a musical adventure that takes American banjo player Bela Fleck on a trip to Africa to explore the instrument's roots in a faraway place and culture. He is astonished to discover how music has been so seamlessly integrated into everyday life there. When adults in the family play instruments or sing, usually the young follow in their footsteps. When a musician plays outside, he is usually joined by others who sing or dance to the beat.
In Uganda, his tour guide and translator is a gregarious folk musician who introduces Fleck to several bands who play with him. He also listens to one the few women in Africa who plays a thumb-piano and sings as well. In Tanzania, Fleck jams with a well-known blind singer and with the family of a recently deceased musician; they are dazzled by the banjo played by the American. He also meets a group of Masai tribesmen who demonstrate their guttural singing tradition. In Gambia, he plays alongside Mr. Jatta, a talented man who has mastered the akonting. The last stop is Mali, which Fleck calls "the crown-jewel of music in Africa." He accompanies a famous singer who treats him like royalty.
This entertaining documentary vividly shows how music can bring people from very different cultures and traditions together in a mutually gratifying way.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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