This is a very cool, very listenable, and a very culturally valuable collection of songs and a few instrumentals from, or inspired by, Africa. The full title is “Throw Down your Heart; Africa Sessions, Tales from the Acoustic Planet Vol 3. The album artist is Bela Fleck, but each of the 18 tracks is a collaboration with a different artist or in some cases nearly an entire village. Fleck’s banjo is a distinct presence on the album, but the focus of each track is on the collaborator.
The collaborators and songs come from Mali, Uganda, Madagascar, Tanzania, Senegal, Cameroon, South African, The Gambia, and were recorded in many of these countries. Instruments include several kinds of lutes that are probable ancestors of the banjo, the kora, marimbas, thumb pianos, djembes (drums), hands, feet, and voices.
This album, a small sampling of the 40 pieces Fleck and his crew recorded on location in Africa over a five week period in 2005, stands on its own, and will be a valuable addition to the Folk Show library.
But wait, there’s more! : Fleck’s filmmaker brother Sascha Paladino and crew filmed all the music making and created a documentary that is being released on the west coast and is soon to be released in in the east , including Reading , PA.
Both the CD and Film are even more impressive given the fact that the financial backer (Sony) pulled out, and Fleck financed the endeavor himself.
Here’s and excerpt from an article in the LA Times by Tina Daunt:
“It must have been around the time when I first learned that the banjo came from Africa,” he said. “I was surprised that most people didn’t know that. It seemed like an important thing to know.”
He started listening to musicologists’ field recordings of the “tantalizingly beautiful music from Africa.”
Weeks of shooting and playing with African musicians in Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Gambia and Mali followed. The brothers came home with more than 250 hours of film and more than 40 pieces of newly recorded music.
The title song continued to haunt Fleck’s imagination throughout the process. “When we got to Tanzania,” Fleck recalled, “we heard stories about the slaves first seeing the sea in Bagamoyo. We were told that slaves were transported east in much greater numbers than the slaves that went west to the Americas. When they saw the sea, they realized they would never see their homes again, and they ‘threw down their hearts.’ That is the translation for the name of the town of Bagamoyo.”
It is one of history’s tender turns of fate that those hearts were picked up so many years later by a gifted young boy watching television in a New York apartment. Nobody could have been more faithful in caring for them, which is why “Throw Down Your Heart” is not just a stunning documentary and soundtrack, but an important work of artistic memory and conscience.