A lot of things can be said about the effect of the Internet on music an it’s reach to potential audiences. Almost thirty years ago Paul Simon brought traditional Afropop music out of the incense heavy world of import clothing shops and thrust Graceland onto the main stage and record stores across the world — eventually landing him a Grammy Award for album of the year in 1987 (of course, this is glossing over the controversy surrounding Graceland; which include but are not limited to cultural appropriation and making sure musician’s contributing to the album got their rightful credit — also, Chevy Chase).
Times have changed, “world music” has become an actual section of most record stores, and some of the biggest acts of the past 40 years including the Talking Heads and Vampire Weekend, have fully embraced the 12/8 hypnotism of traditional Afropop rhythm sections and the accentuating guitar flourishes. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what David Byrne has done with his label Luaka Boph to bring Nigirian Funk king William Onyeabor to listeners around the world through reissues of his classic albums, and 2013’s must-have compilation Who is William Onyeabor?
Now Portland is getting it’s very own taste and twist of traditional West African music as Tal National takes the stage tomorrow night at SPACE, thanks to an unlikely co-sponsor for the event — the lifestyle and clothing store, Portland Trading Company.
“I actually booked the show almost a year ago. With international acts, you often have to plan way out,” said Peter McLaughlin, the music programmer for the nonprofit visual arts venue SPACE. “We always love to partner with local businesses in Portland and we thought Portland Trading Co. would be a great fit to cosponsor the show.”
While Portland’s growing immigrant population has brought more and more world culture and music to our city, tomorrow night’s show at SPACE is the first time (as far as we can tell) that traditional West African music has headlined a show in Portland at such a large venue like SPACE.
“I first became aware of them when they were supposed to play The Oax and the Ax festival back in 2013. They sadly had visa issues then and weren’t able to make it to the US,” added McLaughlin. “They are a phenomenally interesting and enigmatic group. They’re really hard to pin down; it’s so upbeat, danceable, and accessible, but deep, complex and challenging, too. It’s rare that you find music that excites both the brain and the body so well. ”
Also joining Tal National will be DJ Precious Style, who will be spinning classic Afropop music and long lost gems of African music. Tomorrow night’s show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are still available at the door.