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John Hughes - Kora Sutra

Kora Sutra

John Hughes

John Hughes
33 West Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301
802-254-4233
john@johnhughesmusic.com

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Lindsay Cobb
(ezwriter99@yahoo.com)

John Hughes must be a happy man. His first CD, Kora Sutra, could not have been created otherwise. Serenity and joy float through this recording like a raft floating down a wide, placid river, inviting the listener to float along.

Hughes, a multi-talented musician, artist, and teacher, has trained with master drummers from Guinea and Mali, and teaches drumming workshops across the US. I first heard Hughes' music at an African dance recital, where Yemaya (track one of the CD) served as accompaniment. Arranged from a traditional Yoruban chant from Nigeria, Yemaya is a languid, unhurried piece consisting of percussion and vocals. The music didn't just enhance the choreography: it made me want to join the dancers on stage. Luckily, I found the CD at the snack table during intermission.

The rest of Kora Sutra continues at a similar leisurely pace. It's a relaxed collection of original compositions informed by traditional African rhythms and melodies, employing such instruments as the sangban, udu, kalimba, dunun, balafone, and the eponymous kora--this last one being a plucked harp-lute with a large calabash (gourd) body, a cow hide "sound board," and twenty-one nylon strings. Hughes plays all of these instruments, some of which he built himself.

If I wanted to describe the "stand-outs" on Kora Sutra, I'd only wind up listing all the tracks. Some of the stand-outs of the stand-outs include:

  • I Like Your Bones — a multitracked vocalese number that combines scat singing, overtoning, and general jazzing around.
  • Solar Wind — one of the few tracks approaching a fast pace, it's a rather quiet jaunt featuring Erik Lawrence on alto flute, and Hughes providing everything else from marimba to salad bowl.
  • Slow 10 (Listen) — a sultry number sung by guest vocalist Natalie Blake; the raft has floated down the river all day, and is now tied up in a secluded harbor for the night. (A friend of mine listening to this cut mistook Blake for the pop chanteuse Sade.)
  • River Goddess — the last track, is a poem with musical accompaniment, recited by John DeKadt with exuberant reverence as it describes a woman on a jungle riverbank, "like fertility with feet," bathing and gathering water into a jar.

John Hughes' Kora Sutra is the perfect accompaniment for dancing, relaxing, or just being happy to be alive. Thanks for sharing the wealth, John.

TRACK LIST

  • Yemaya (trad., arranged by Hughes)
  • Kora Sutra (Hughes, Andrea Konstankiewiczova)
  • I Like Your Bones
  • Kan-Kan Omasse
  • Bala Hop
  • Solar Wind (Hughes, Erik Lawrence)
  • Slow 10 (Listen) (Hughes, Natalie Blake, Todd Roach)
  • River Goddess (Hughes, John DeKadt)
(All songs written and arranged by John Hughes, except as noted)

Edited by David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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