Jazz in Africa: A St. Louis Night
18 July 2012
Curiosity brought them together, music united them: Mike Herting, jazz pianist from Germany, and Djiby Djabaté, balafon player from Senegal, who met in St. Louis. Their unusual jam session became one of the highlights of the jazz festival there.
St. Louis, the name even sounds like music: the world famous St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is from there, Chuck Berry was a native son and the city on the shores of the Mississippi was shaped by the blues. But jazz? Well, Miles Davis was born in St. Louis, but those who want to visit the strongholds of jazz have to travel to New Orleans or Chicago. Or cross the ocean to the other St. Louis. That’s right; every year the city of the same name in Senegal is the site of Africa’s biggest jazz festival.
For many years the Goethe-Institut has also supported the St. Louis Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The musicians Herting und Djabaté were there recently in the north of Senegal near the Mauritanian border on the invitation of the institute.
The audience was already enthralled a few moments after the start of their concert. The “world’s smallest orchestra” exuded its joy of playing and discovery, which was shared by all.
It was not the first time that the blend of piano and balafon proved its worth: In 1999 Hans Lüdemann, another pianist and composer from Germany, encountered the balafonist Aly Keita during a Goethe-Institut project in Côte d'Ivoire. Buoyed by the success of a concert together, the German and Ivoirian continued their collaboration and eventually – along with the Steve Argüelles from the UK – even founded the Trio Ivoire.
Who knows, perhaps we will hear more from the duo Herting and Djabaté as well. For now, though, they preferred to “leave the church to the village” as we say in German. Or, better, the cathedral in Cologne: