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An engagement at an African music festival took bandleader Jeremiah Lockwood as far from his musical roots as he’d ever ventured—and put him in tune with them anew

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Jeremiah Lockwood outside the studio in Mali where his band, The Sway Machinery, recorded its latest album. (Tatiana McCabe)

Jeremiah Lockwood is no stranger to unlikely musical syntheses. His band, The Sway Machinery, began by combining blues rhythms with the traditional liturgical melodies he’d learned from his grandfather, cantor Jacob Konigsberg. The band’s latest album, The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol. 1, represents a pairing of an entirely different sort. Last January, the band performed in Mali as part of the annual Festival in the Desert. While there, they recorded with local musicians, most notably Khaira Arby, the so-called “queen of desert music.” The result is an utterly unique—and unusually stirring—coming together of musical and religious traditions. Lockwood has described the trip as both a venturing out and a homecoming, and while the album’s juxtapositions could have been discordant—on one track Arby invokes Allah; on another, Lockwood sings the Sabbath eve tune “Shalom Aleichem”—they feel as natural as can be.


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JCarpenter says:

Some time ago VH-1 produced a neat film, “Dave and Trey Go to Africa,” featuring Dave Matthews and Trey Anastasio (formerly of Phish) who between concerts and recording projects, travel to Senegal, Africa, in order to explore other musical traditions. Besides being a hipster travelogue, the film shows Dave and Trey linking up with the iconic “AfroPop” band of the 70’s, Orchestra Baobob, making a reunion/revival tour. Interesting combination; of great interest to my high school students as a complement to their studies in World Lit.


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An engagement at an African music festival took bandleader Jeremiah Lockwood as far from his musical roots as he’d ever ventured—and put him in tune with them anew

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