Dispatches From Arma 2.0
After the national nightmare that was a virgin mojito, George was pleased to be sipping actual alcohol, in the form of a tasty margarita, on what amounted to multi-culti night at the Arma. Not just the crowd, which was more robust, wild, and ready to party than the night before and peppered with folks from at least a dozen countries. Last night was multi-culti night because of the headliners.
Debu was the first of what amounted to two heavyweights, and they were transcendent. The heart and soul was a Sufi devotional singer from Oregon, by way of Sulawesi and Jakarta, who sounded like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and looked like your average country white boy. Granted, he’s a white boy who can play the hell out of an oud (Turkish guitar). In other words, there was nothing average about him. He’s a master musician and so, it seems, is his younger brother – an all around percussionist with lightening fingers and contagious showmanship. Rounding out the band was a Javanese flamenco master, another American rocking the funk out of his electric bass, a straight ahead tabla scientist, an American flautist in a Sonny Crockett dinner jacket, and a gifted fiddler from Kalimantan.
Given that the band’s leaders cut their teeth at a Sufi camp in South Sulawesi, where they past their teenage years, Rumi-licious God Is Love songs dominated the set, but they sprinkled in some lovely Dominican swing, a taste of Flamenco, and a tremendous percussion jam too. This band, who grouped up in Jakarta ten years ago during university and have since traveled the world playing their sweet music are harbingers of fire, light and virtuosity. The crowd screamed, stomped and danced. All was right in the world.
In other words, they were a tough act to follow, especially if you follow it with a vegan rap song. This actually happened. The emcees couldn’t help themselves, and slowly the steam seeped from the bubble, which probably helped the next act.
Delhi 2 Dublin, an aggressive, jubilant Canadian group weaved Celtic, Breakbeat, Reggae, Punjabi, Drum n’ Bass and Hip Hop into a rather athletic performance that got the crowd even higher. There were moments of Bollywood-esque choreography, dueling fiddles, sweet Punjabi lyrics mingling with dub beats, and lots of macho jumping around (a hip hop tip of the hat to House of Pain, even if they are too young to know it). They were absolutely fun and uplifting, and I especially loved the vocalized tabla beat box, but when the smoke machine cleared its throat, and I zoomed off with sweet, tipsy George into the starlight, I was thinking of the Sufi warrior saints.
Which reminds me, I’d better download their record right about now.
Written by : Adam Skolnick