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December 07, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-12-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, December 7, 2007 -'5

Youssou N'Dour, musical and socio-political touchstone, will perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at Hill Auditorium.

Seriously
vibrant, engaging
* Afro-pop comes to
Hill Auditorium
By GABRIEL BAKER
Daily Arts Writer
In terms of bringing world-
renown musicians and perform-
ers toAnnArbor,
it seems as if Youssou
the University
Musical Soci- N'DOur
ety doesn't have Tomorrow
a ceiling. This
year has already at8p.m.
witnessed At Hill
incredible per- Auditorium
formances $l0-$4g
from Caetano
Veloso and Yo-
Yo Ma among many others, but
perhaps none of the artists from
this current season have had the
same musical and socio-political
impact as Youssou N'Dour.
Hailing from Dakar, Senegal,

N'Dour has steadily garnered
iconic acclaim over the past 25
years, establishing himself as the
unofficial ambassador of African
roots music. It seems unfathom-
able to designate an entire conti-
nent around one musician, and in
many ways it is, but if there's any-
one at all qualified for that title,
it's N'Dour.
His music is a smooth blend of
Senegalese pop with griot percus-
sion flairs, occasionally drifting
in and out of Afro-Cuban/Carib-
bean territories. Mbalax, as it is
known in Wolof, is more than just
the eclectic music popularized by
N'Dour. It reflects the rhythms
and movements incorporated in
the dance music. After all, you're
supposed to dance to this.
But what stands out most in the
music is N'Dour's-piercing, emo-
tive voice. Honestly, you don't
need me to tell you. Critics every-
where can't stop raving about
how charismatic and transcen-
dental it is. Whether in Wolof or
English, he's capable of evoking
global issues and cross-cultural
differences in an engaging and

immediate way.
Just to note some of N'Dour's
many politically conscious
endeavors, he's an ambassador to
UNICEF, the United Nations and
the InternationalBureau of Work.
Even if he's not officially entitled
to African roots music's ambas-
sadorship, three out of four's not
bad. He has also organized con-
certs under certain political and
social themes, such as his 1985
concert for the liberation of Nel-
son Mandela.
N'Dour in fact performed in
Ann Arbor just two years ago in
support of his acclaimed album
Egypt. But this year's perfor-
mance is sure to be a completely
different experience. N'Dour will
be accompanied by the Super
dtoile band, the ensemble he
helped create and cultivate over
the past 25 years.
When he formed the original
Star Band in the 1970s, its rather
traditional music - incorporating
roots dance rhythms, religious-
like chants and spacious guitar
patterns - was defiantly differ-
ent from West African popular

COURTE SY O F YOUSSOO N'DOUR
music. At the time, Western soul
and funk music was infiltrating
most corners of the Bulge,,replac-
ing traditional instruments (and
languages for that matter) with
James Brown mannerisms and
Hendrix-esque guitar solos. This
is not to say Youssou N'Dour and
the Super Etoile don't incorpo-
rate some of these funk elements
in their music. Saturday's concert
is sure to have several rising num-
bers.
It seems almost redundant to
say this with UMS performances,
but Youssou N'Dour's concert is
an incredibly special occasion
that should not be missed. It's as
simple as choosing your desired
reason for attending - to see an
artist that has had a profound
effect on African music and poli-
ties, to sit in Hill Auditorium's
luxurious and cozy seats (except
for front row Mezzanine, where
afterward your knees are going to
be in a bit of pain) or simply to see
one of the most important musi-
cians of our time playing some
seriously vibrant, engaging Afro-
pop. I

Anew genre in
the 'dansical'

By NORA FELHUSEN:
DaiyArts Writer
What do you 'call a play with
dAncing, music and a little bit of
singing? How about an experi-
mental, organic.
anid collabora-
tive experience A GoodSoy
for students' in
the University's
School of Musi- tomorrow
cal Theater? at8 p.
That's how those Sunday at.
involved in this 2p-m.
weekend's studio' Atthe Arthur
production of "A 'Mller Theatre
Good Boy" view
its new piece. 9w/student
As a studio .{16
production in the
School of Musical
Theater, "A Good Boy" is directed
by faculty and cast with students
in the school. Studio productions
stand in contrast with University
Productions like "J.B."runningthis
weekend, which have significant
fiancial backing by the school.
Dubbeds-a "dansical" by students
in the program, "A Good Boy"
is deeply rooted in the Univer-
sity. Written by University ahm
Brian Spitulnik, directed by Linda
Goodrich; associate professor of
dance asd with musical composi-
tion by Unisiversity kaun Sam Davis,
the show debuts this teekend at
the Arthur Miller Theatre on North
Campus.
"Dancical"maynotbe the appro-
priate term f6r "A Good Boy," but
as unprecedented as the piece is,
students inevitably had to call it
something. At mossft Amos Wolff, a
Musical Theater senior, cast mem-
ber and associate choreographer,
put its "There is no 'Good-Boy' else-
where." ..
The show introduces a new style
into musical theater. Traditional
musicals usually present the feel-
ings and thoiughts of characters:
through song, but "A Good Boy"
does this through dance. The story
is about a 6-year-old named Scott
and his family. Goodrich expressed
initial fear of the show being too
"esoteric" but has been pleasantly;
surprised with its accessibility. She
said audiences will "feel for the'
characters" before the story ven-
tures into the abstract. The music,
composed by University alum Sam
Davis, contains a specific motif for
each character.
All four sain characters are
dancers --an unusual phenomenon
in musical theater. Goodrich said
the distinct training of everyone

in the cast amplifies this anomaly.
While one leid has a background
in modern music, another has an
athletic style and others are trained
in the more traditional musical-
theater style. Goodrich is also the
choreographer, and her dance cre-
ations are extremely collaborative.
Before choreographing anything,
she created a basic vocabulary by
having the cast improvise while
she picks out poignant phrases and
movements.
The work is based on a Hop-
wqod-winning short story written
by Spitulnik'in 2005. He adapted
it into a play after a year or two of
encouragement from Goodrich.
Both creators are dancers and
they saw the potential to try some-
thing new with the story. Producer
Randy Adams, founder of Juikyard
Dog Productions, has taken on the
production to foster both a new art-
ist, Spitulnik, and a possible new
genre. Prior to this weekend, "A
Good Boy" has never had an audi-
ence of more than a fe' friends for
a reading in NewYork.
"There's never been a dull
moment. It's always complex and
difficult but very rewarding," Wolff
A musical, but
with more dance
than song.
said, referring to the rehearsals and
overall experience.
Darren Biggart, a Musical The-
ater senior and cast member, called
it an "actor's dream," citing the
cast's flexibility to shape their char-
acters. To get into theiryeles, Big-
gart - who plays a 6-year-old -did
some insider research by trick-or-
treating with the other cast mem-
bers who play hisfamily.
"A Good Boy" is very much a
work injprogress. Biggart predicted
Sunday's show might be notice-
ably different from tomorrow's
premiere. Last week, Spitulnik cut
a page-long monologue down to
three lines. What better place to
debut such an experimental piece
than in a school that offersthe opti-
mism and malleability of youthful
artists? Even the eager and excited
participants don't know what to
expect from a show that offers an
innovative take on several tradi-
tional forms.
"We didn't set out to create a
newgenre," Spitulnik said. But that
seems to be exactly what they did.

God the Devil and
everything else

By MARKEN GREENWOOD
For the Daily
This weekend at the Power Center, God
and the Devil will fight an epic battle of wit
and will. They will test
human faith and endur-
ance. They will drag one J.B.
man from the zenith Tonight and
of success to the pit of tomorrowat 8
destruction and back
p.m., Sunday
again. at 2p.m.
And all this takes place
within a traveling cir- At the Power
cus populated by student Center
actors and, believe it or $9-$24
not, football stars.
The Department of
Theater and Drama presents Pulitzer
Prize-winning play "J.B.," a sweeping tale
of morality and humanity based on the
Book of Job. That's right, the biblical story
of a virtuous man put to the test by com-

bined efforts of a punishing God and Satan
who tortures the believer with all manners
of misfortune.
The third Theatre Department produc-
tion of the semester, "J.B." is faculty-direct-
ed and student-performed. Music, Theater
and Dance junior Dylan Saunders plays Job
with seniors Pat Rourke as God and Alex
Polcyn as Lucifer. However, in modernist
Chad Henne and
Jake Long as you've
never seen them. '
poet Archibald MacLeish's world, God is
Mr. Zuss, the Devil is Mr. Nickles, and Job
is J.B. - all members of an ensemble of cir-
cus performers.
See J.B., Page 8 "Watch your mouthl'

Matt Santos, singer-songwriter of the digital age, comes to AA

By CAITLIN COWAN
DailyArts Writer
Singer-songwriter Matthew Santos is
one of a growing number of young, talented,
male singer-songwriters showcasing his
music in what has become
a newly standardized Matt Santos
manner: by way ofiTunes,
through MySpace, by Tonight at
word of mouth and on 9 p.m.
independent labels. He's
a child of the digital age, At the Michigan
and that isn't such a bad Union Ballroom
thing. Free
"It's a special experi-
ence finding someone like
Ray LaMontagne through word of mouth
or through a friend," Santos said. "Times
are definitely changing, and it's changed

the music industry in ways that I think are
great, but in some ways that are not."
Santos,whowillperformtonight at9 p.m.
in the Michigan Union Ballroom, released
his first solo album, Matters of the Bitter-
sweet, on CandyRat Records last month.
His EP, As a Crow Flies, is now available on
iTunes. Unfortunately, the song-by-song
downloading habits of the masses do have
their pitfalls.
"The album is an experience," Santos
said. "If you just take certain parts of an
album, it's like just having an appetizer or
some French fries. You've got to get the
whole package if you really want to support
an artist or get into what he's doing."
Global exposure through the Internet
and television has also given Santos a larger
view of his audience.
"I think it's great because anyone in the

world can listen to your music. You don't
have to be in the same place or the same
area code," Santos said. "You could be in
Nova Scotia and people from Glasgow can
listen to your music. There are no borders
or boundaries. Your ideal audience could be
in the U.K. And it's good to test the waters.
We've gotten an amazing response from
people."
For those searching for the whole pack-
age in the form of a guitar-strumming rising
star, Santos's free show tonight should help.
He will also hold signing at the Motivation
Boutique on South University Avenue before
the show from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
With influences as diverse as Martin Sex-
ton, Bjork, Jeff Buckley and Tamil violinist
Lakshminarayanan Subramaniam, Santos
culls from a mixed bag of talented vocal-
ists and instrumentalists, and it shows.

His voice can be husky like LaMontagne
or sugary and soft like Patrick Watson. His
intensely personal songs aren't the melan-
cholic musings one comes to expect from
these turbulent times, either His take is
refreshingly proactive and opeimiptic.
"I'm trying to write songs that aren't
complaining or whining. I never feel like
a victim, so I never write from the 'victim'
standpoint, saying'Oh, she broke my heart,'.
or 'Oh, she's the worst,' "'Santos said. It's.not
about that. It's really about taking responsi-'
bility for your actions and your choices and
living with that choice."
The past year has been quite a whirl-
wind for Santos, He performed at the mtvU
Woodie Awards and recorded a track with
Lupe Fiasco for his lauded Food t Liquor
album. Santos will also appear on three"
songs on Fiasco's upconingalbum The Coal..

The duo is also set to perform "Superstar"
on "Late Night with David Letterman" on
Dec.19.
"Lupe and I are actually long-lost broth-
ers, and we finally found each other again in
the Attic Studios through a mutual friend of
ours,"'he said.
Santos said his medium is linked not to
current state of culture, but rather to the
human condition as it stands.
"There's a certain timeless aspect to
(singer-songwriters). It's not a product of
the times," Santos said. "I think people are
gravitating toward what's real. You listen
to some of James Taylor's stuff, and it's still
banging today."
So after his signing, head on over to his
free show at themUnion - Santos has all the
markings of a musician you can say that you
saw way back when.

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