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Hugh Masekela in concert August 8, 2007

Posted by Peter Hornby in music.

For quite a few years now, Lorraine and I have been taking advantage of the concert program at The San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, here in Orange County, California.  The program is varied and always interesting.  Over the years we’ve seen

  • Kitka – a wonderful Bay Area-based women’s vocal group specializing in the unearthly folk music of Eastern Europe
  • The Laurel Canyon Ramblers – lovely bluegrass from a band of folk and country veterans
  • Fairport Convention – the acoustic trio with Simon Nicol, Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders
  • Old Blind Dogs – beautiful Scottish folk music
  • John Hammond – acoustic blues
  • Adrian Legg – absolutely unbelievable English guitarist

and many others.

The concerts are normally held outdoors, in the library courtyard, which is a great place to listen to music in the cool of the evening.  The normal ticket price is $10, which is pretty much unheard of nowadays.

The program is managed by Bob Slater, a man for whom the term “enthusiast” might have been invented.  Bob just loves this stuff, and he brings it to us so we can love it too.  Even Bob was close to speechless last Saturday as he introduced Hugh Masekela to the stage.  This was the biggest concert in the program’s history, by a man who’s been a giant of African music for over forty years, a man who was on the bill at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and who’s toured and recorded with all the great names of African music.

The concert didn’t disappoint.  Masekela is now 68 years old, but you wouldn’t think so to watch him on stage.  He’s totally absorbing to watch – strutting, shaking, constantly moving with his musicians. His singing voice is rough and compelling, but his flugelhorn is still as sweet and lyrical as it ever was.  The six-piece band behind him – guitar, keyboards, sax, bass, percussion and drums – is tight and loose, if that’s not too much of a contradiction.  They have the loping African rhythm effortlessly down, and, the way they play it, it may be the most infectious dance music you’ll ever hear.

I caught the first of the two concerts they played on Saturday.  It ran for an hour or so, during which the band ran through a representative sample of the music on the recent live 2-CD set Live at the Market Theater, recorded in Johannesburg.  The concert finished with a rousing version of “Ashiko” – also a highlight of the CD – which had everyone on their feet as Masekela drew the song’s call/response from the audience.  It was an evening I won’t soon forget

Next up –

  • Irish folk by Grada (September 1)
  • Scottish folk from Old Blind Dogs (September 8)
  • Zydeco from Geno Delafoose and French Rocking Boogie (September 15). 

Highly recommended.



1. Patrick @ Laguna Beach Books - September 3, 2007

Sorry, I couldn’t resist posting. I was trolling Laguna-area blogs, and I also love the summer reading series. The writer Michael Ryan wrote a poem set at one of those very concerts, back when the tickets were “six bucks,” and it’s a fantastic poem:


Hope you like it. And here’s to Dawkins TV!

2. Peter Hornby - September 6, 2007

Thanks, Patrick, for submitting my very first comment! I liked the poem a lot – it captures a good deal of what makes the series special. We’ll be there this Saturday for Old Blind Dogs.

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