Enjoy music from Best Video Film & Cultural Center on our YouTube channel!

While most of us are social distancing, Best Video Film & Cultural Center is taking this opportunity to share wonderful musical moments from shows here on YouTube. These are videos shot be Executive Director Hank Hoffman over the past several years and are chosen to showcase the diversity of music that we present.

We created the Best Video Film & Cultural Center YouTube channel in December and have posted six videos so far with many more to come. Subscribe to the channel to get notified when new videos are uploaded.

For our first video, we posted a tune by Tariku, a local offshoot of the NYC-based Mandingo Ambassadors. Tariku is fronted by Aaron Latham Greenberg and features the great Guinean guitarist Mamady Kouyate. Frank Brocklehurst is on bass, Matt Dean is on percussion, and Dylan McDonnell plays flute. This was from an August, 2019 show.

The next video features New Haven rock ‘n’ roll legends The Furors playing their song “Twistin’ In the Wind” on may 11, 2017. The Furors are Derek Holcomb on guitar and Tom Dans on drums. They have been playing the New Haven area since the late 1970s.

Afro-soul dynamo Thabisa graced our stage on July 25, 2019, accompanied by Lamar Smith (guitar), Sam Oliver (drums), Jim Lawson (bass), and Timothy Kane (trumpet). This is Thabisa’s song “Ndithanda Wena.”

The Tony Purrone Trio—led by internationally known jazz guitarist Tony Purrone—plays his original tune “Lost and Found” at Best Video Film & Cultural Center in Hamden, CT December 19, 2019. Accompanying Tony Purrone are Preston Murphy on upright bass and Ray Marchica on drums.

Americana/country band Plywood Cowboy play the song “Stray” at Best Video Film & Cultural Center August 10, 2017. “Stray” was written by band leader, singer, and guitarist Steve Dedman. Plywood Cowboy for this show was Dedman (vocals, guitar, piano), Austin Gray (lead guitar, vocals), Kat Wallace (violin, vocals), Shane Tanner (bass), and Jason Apostoleris (drums).

Bluegrass star Tim O’Brien, accompanied by Jan Fabricus on vocals, performs at Best Video Film & Cultural Center in Hamden, Connecticit November 15, 2017, part of a sold-out two-night stand. The concert was presented by Chris Wuerth’s GuitarTownCT Productions. O’Brien and Fabricus perform the song “Grandma’s Hands,” composed by Bill Withers.

Music: Tariku—inheritors of Mandingo Ambassadors local mantle—play West African music Fri., Nov. 22

Tariku—which includes members of The Mandingo Ambassadors, including guitarist Mamady Kouyate and vocalist Aaron Greenberg—play Best Video Performance Space Friday, Nov. 22. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $15.

The music of Tariku is driven by the graceful and ebullient interlocking polyrhythms for which West African music has become famous. This is the region musicologists credit with the roots of jazz, blues, funk, and hip hop, and that sonic DNA is clearly audible in the playing of percussionists Mangue Sylla and Matt Dean, and bassist Frank Brocklehurst. Coloring inside these percussive lines are the smooth, elegantly filigreed guitar lines of lead guitarist, Mamady “Jelike” Kouyate Also leader of The Mandingo Ambassadors), and the swirling yet unerringly precise cascades of young flute phenom Dylan McDonnell. Rounding out the melodic mix, Arouna Kouyate doubles on the kora- a 21 string calabash harp with a tone like the beautiful lovechild of a lute and an oud- and the vocals, whose flavor to Western ears might fall somewhere between Flamenco and the blues.

Our influences range from the almost operatic style of classical Mandè virtuosos like Kouyate Sory Kandia and Toumani Diabate, to the golden age West African jazz bands like Balla et Ses Balladins and Bembeya Jazz National. The result is a surprisingly versatile and accessible sound which can be both mild and sweet enough to serve as a unique alternative to a jazz combo or string quartet, or bold and lively enough to drive people onto the dance floor.

In Maninka, the language of the former Mandén Empire (c.1230-c.1630) “Tariku” means “chronicle”. It refers to the treasure trove of musical literature kept these 800 years by a hereditary caste of bards called the jelilu (singular, jeli).

At the same time that epics like The Song of Roland and The Poem of the Cid were being sung in the castles of medieval Europe, the Mandén tariku or “chronicles of Mandén” were being performed in the courts of medieval West Africa. These epics are rich with high adventure, great battles, palace intrigues, cunning sorceresses, stalwart warriors, and august kings. Basically, imagine Game of Thrones, but with the cast of Black Panther, and you’re halfway there.

Our musical and historical director, El Hajj Mamady “Jelike” Kouyate, holds the eminent position of Jeli Kuntigi (literally “Headmaster”) of the Society of Mandén Jelilu of the Americas. As the foremost authority in this hemisphere on his people’s musico-historical tradition, he has charged us with the task (no pressure) of elevating and popularizing this tragically underappreciated art form here in the west. In the spirit of this, we strive to present these timeless pieces in a way that will be at once accessible and entertaining for American listeners, and also painstakingly faithful to the tradition. The result is a performance that falls somewhere between classical and jazz, between storytelling and song, between ancient and modern.

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