TONY BIRD in Concert, Saturday, March 2, 8 pm
165 McGraw Hall, Cornell Arts Quad, Central Ave.
Tony Bird is unique: a truly original performer and song writer, “untamed; a wild-card creature of inordinate invention.” No one else sounds remotely like him. He is a white African musician and internationally acclaimed poet now living in the United States. Village Voice has dubbed him “the finest, most impressive folk poet in years.” His music and spirit are deeply rooted in southern Africa, the beauty of the Rift Valley, and the suffering of his continent. Tony Bird’s voice is haunting, powerful, eccentric, radiant, percussive. He playfully suggests that “it probably comes from trying to sound like John Lee Hooker and Hank Williams and failing at both.” From a quirky high tenor to a throaty growl, Tony Bird may break into falsetto or howling, bird calls or bushman clicks, to serve the song. He weaves stories rich in symbolism and gritty, carefully observed detail. His lyrics are intimate, clever, often angry, but frequently joyous. They reflect his complex relationship with his native land, from sweet pleasures (Mango Time) to the magic of wild Africa (Tssik…Listen to the Stars) to profound despair (Sorry Africa) and hope (Run).
Born in Malawi (Nyasaland), educated in Rhodesia and Britain, Tony Bird returned to Africa as a young adult to make a career in music. Unfortunately his politics, in the fight against apartheid, made him unwelcome to governmental authorities. After years traveling around the world, he made a home in New York City. Not simply a singer of protest songs, Tony Bird calls his music “African folk rock.” It fuses African pop, Southern rhythm and blues, and ethereal world music. His polyrhythmic but melodic guitar work is as ample as a full band. In addition to his earlier recordings for Columbia, his CD from Rounder also features Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon’s Graceland band.
Tony Bird is unforgettable. He has performed in Ithaca only three times in the past 28 years, but each concert has erupted in a standing ovation. The Cornell Folk Song Society is pleased to help him be heard once again.
Tickets are available at Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar Market, Autumn Leaves Books, online at http://www.cornellfolksong.org/, or at the door. $15 adv/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens; children 12 & under free. Students $10/$12.
For concert information, call (607) 351-1845. For information about the performer, see http://www.mangotime.net/
– Margaret Shepard