Ithaca Blog

Monday, July 23, 2007

GrassRoots 2007 Breakout Artist

Reporting back from GrassRoots Festival:

We love GrassRoots as much as anyone, and appreciate with amazement how, for four days, the Trumansburg Fairgrounds becomes a beautiful, intensified reflection of this creative, loving community.

We also appreciate how four days of camping can rekindle your love for your bed, your routine, and porcelain.

The most exciting thing each year at the festival is to see who the breakout artist will be. In the past two years it has been the Avett Brothers and Musafir. This year it was no newcomer, but Hugh Masekela, the veteran jazz trumpeter from South Africa.

Most people who know Masekela at all will know him for his sole hit song, from the 1960's, "Grazing In the Grass." But his performance Saturday night showed him to be a consummate composer, bandleader, trumpeter, singer, stage presence, and ambassador of world music.

Masekela's playing, and even moreso his voice, had the strength and passion of someone decades younger. Our friend and keen appraiser of such things, Hollywood Joe, said, "It was like hearing Miles Davis and James Brown, at the top of their game, in one person."

Masekela enthralled the crowd with stories of defeating aparetheid in South Africa. He performed "Mandela," his anthem to his friend.

He elicited laughter with casually risque stage patter, and enthusiasm with talk of togetherness and love.

It was a great performance - and a lesson that newness, freshness, and impact are not provinces exclusively of the young.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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