Last night in Austin, TX, Zimbabwean musician and instructor, Joel Laviolette, shared a story with his audience about the cultural difference between American audiences and those of Zimbabwe. In the U.S. the audience plays a passive role - we sit back and enjoy being entertained. The artist is separated and elevated away from the audience, working to push their energy out to get a positive response.
In Zimbabwe, the performer and audience are one unit. The music is a part of their everyday lives so much so that the music and audience participation through dance go hand in hand. Joel said it is similar to the background sound of the TV being a part of a normal dinnertime routine for many American families. In Zimbabwe, at dinnertime, some may be sitting down to eat, while someone is in the other room playing music and another member of the family is dancing while the kids are arguing. "There's not a difference between eating dinner and playing music".
Joel tells story of artist and audience relationship.
Joel was successful at getting his audience to understand this relationship and helped them experience the Zimbabwean connection to music at the "Austin Meets Zimbabwe" performance at the Rattletree School of Marimba. He began the show with an intimate performance in Mbira with traditional vocals and story telling. The Mbira melody is so gentle and smooth that it is somewhat hypnotic. This works well as he explains the artist/audience relationship story just as he transitions to the marimba where he engages his band for a full on high energy musical experience. Immediately the audience understands what he meant by that story and there is no way to fight the upbeat rhythm of the marimba music and the dancing musicians. People of all ages and all walks of life dance to their hearts' delight. Even the introverted wall-flowers like me were bobbing heads and smiling back at the musicians.
The soul of this music and the reason the experience feels so good is the connection with the people behind it. While I have never been to Zimbabwe to meet the masters of this music and personally experience the culture, the passion that Joel brings to his teaching and performing makes me feel like I have been. He talks of their work ethic, their authentic happiness for basic needs and deep physical strength after years of making life work without modern technology.
Joel and Rattletree were selected by SXSW 2014 and will be performing numerous times during that week. In need of some soul lifting? Go to their show and let your hair down and dance like no one is watching.
|Opening act for "Austin Meets Zimbabwe", Sevana Marimba. A 12-piece all-women ensemble in Austin, TX|
Interested in having your own Marimba? X8 Drums is the exclusive online dealer for Joel Laviolette's Rattletree Marimbas. Check them out here.