041705 Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ottawa, ON

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I’m pretty sure that April 17th, 2005 was the first time I attended a concert at the Dominion-Chalmers Church in downtown Ottawa.  If I could be so vain, I’m assuming they had only recently started booking concerts into the church (or at least good concerts); I can’t imagine that I would have let such an interesting venue escape my ticket-buying dollars for long.  

Anyway, I was there to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo and I was pretty excited.  It was quite a while ago so I could be remembering things wrong, but I feel like instead of sitting in one of the pews I was standing along the wall off to the side with a row of other people for the entire show.  If so, that was the last time I stood at the Domchalm; nobody ever stands for a show at the Domchalm.

I had not yet travelled to Africa but I was pretty deeply into every smidgen of music I had ever heard from the continent, and in this category I guess I’d have to include Paul Simon’s Graceland album.  There are a fair amount of accusations of musical misappropriation, exploitation and even theft hurled in Mr. Simon’s direction with regards to the application of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and some of their songs on the Graceland album, but you won’t hear it from me.  The fact that Ladysmith Black Mambazo actually performs on the album gives Paul Simon the same pass that Dire Straits gets after arranging to have Sting sing the Don’t Stand So Close To Me bits on Money For Nothing.  

The bottom line is we were served an evening full off lush, beautiful African melodies that sounded both comforting and familiar in that grand old church that night.  There were enough performers standing up there by the alter that they looked just like a real choir, and I remember thinking that if church music was that good every Sunday I would make a point of attending regularly.

(But then I thought, heck, maybe church music is that good every Sunday morning…how would I know?  

One time in my first year of university my roommate and I actually managed to stay for a full theory class, rather than cut out at the break like we pretty much always did.  Dr. Cardy finished off the class by analyzing a song by the prog-rock band Yes that had three different time signatures overlaid on top of one another.  Walking through the tunnels back to rez after class Ryan and I were talking about how cool that had been and one of us remarked that if Dr. Cardy always ended his classes like that we might actually stick around for them.  We stopped dead in our tracks, the realization hitting us both simultaneously:

“Maybe he does.”)

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