Local beat: World band hones jams, slows beats
They haven't played together since their 2008 New Years Eve gig at the now-defunct Gravity Lounge, but the assorted clan of Baaba Seth isn't too worried. After nearly twenty years together, Charlottesville's premiere world beat band has no problem getting back in sync.
"We're always afraid that we'll have forgotten everything," guitarist Dirk Lind says. "But after a certain amount of time, doing it comes into your muscle memory."
Baaba Seth returns to Fridays After Five after a two-year hiatus, during which the band returned to their separate zip codes and focused on solo efforts. While hoping to snag a few hours of rehearsal time before the big show, the band clearly isn't worried about being off-beat. Founded in 1991 by Lind and percussionist Len Wishart, the band's various face-changes– former City Councilman Kevin Lynch was a founding member– contributed to the eclectic sound they produced. Each member approaches the overarching genre of "world music" from a different region and philosophy.
"My [solo] stuff is different, more mellow, acoustic," Lind explains. "Hope [saxophonist] is more the funk type."
Wishart, on the other hand, explores Latin and Afro-pop sounds. "It's just a great way to express yourself and affect people so emotionally– it's a great opportunity," he says, "for us to give back to our fans."
A patchwork of influences allows Baaba Seth to continue evolving and exploring new musical ground. Although they play some of their old favorites at each show, their time apart and individual musical growth lends to new variations on their classics.
"Even though we are just playing once a year, we're always developing as musicians individually," says Lind. "They do change over time when we're approaching them with a year's worth of experience under our belts."
Frequenting the Charlottesville music scene nightly for nearly four years in the beginning, Baaba Seth has led the way to popularizing world beats in the mainstream. Today, indie bands flaunt their links to African, Latin, or Indian influences, creating a market for worldliness. Yet according to Lind, Baaba Seth uses world music as the foundation, not the main attraction.
"I feel like we were maybe fifteen years ahead of our time– all of a sudden, all these African influence bands are popping up," Lind notes. "We're just doing our music, but in a framework of people who love African and world music."
After being a steady act on the local roster, Baaba Seth has reached a self-proclaimed maturation point. Instead of playing for name recognition or promotion, the band is able to reunite for a night of slow, steady jams. It's an evolution they plan to expand with a full-length studio album in the next few years.
"When you play something faster, you don't have to connect at such a deep level musically," Lind says. "We're getting to that stage where our music can slow down, but still have power in it."
Baaba Seth plays Fridays After Five on 7/24. Alex Mejias opens. The show starts at 5:30 pm, and admission is free.