Close your eyes and feel the music

Glad rhythms — how can I describe the sound for you? Eight marimbas are cascading tones like summer rain. Within a few beats, most of the audience is on their feet. We’re masked, and we’re keeping careful distance, but we’re dancing together.

The room is basking in the energy of college students cheering their friends at the solos. It’s a Friday night, dropping down from 20 degrees with a keen edge to the wind, and the Zambezi Marimba Band are playing live.

They’re surrounded by brass and jazz piano and drums. The band has more marimba players than marimbas, so at the begining of every song the musicians change over with a flexibility that feels casual. It’s been a long time since I felt this charge — performers handing the music back and forth in buoyant confidence, like old friends sharing inside jokes.

A young man and woman are singing jazz, trading lines at microphones across the room from each other. A violinist sends the descant overhead, high and fast and impossibly fluid. The bandeader, Tendai Muparutsa, is singing a contemporary song from Zimbabwe in his clear, carrying tenor. And for an hour the night is warm.

Tendai Muparutsa, leader of the Zambezi Marimba Band, is an internationally known performer, ethnomusicologist and bandleader, and he’s here, leading the band as an artist in residence at Williams College. These photos above are all press images courtesy of Williams College and the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance. All the pandemic precautions are in place, and Williams College events are only open to the college this semester for safety, students and faculty and staff, and because I’m putting in a few hours a week with oral histories here, I had the chance to hear them. And we have live music around us …

Concerts coming up …

Grosse Isle musicians from Quebec and Ireland — Sophie Lavoie du Lac-St-Jean, André Marchand and Fiachra O’Regan — sit with their instruments against a wall of weathered wood. Press photo courtesy of the Foundry
Mar 2 2024 @ 7:30 pm
The traditional music trio Grosse Isle was born out of a collaboration between three exceptional musicians from Quebec and Ireland — Sophie Lavoie du Lac-St-Jean, André Marchand and Fiachra O’Regan.
Electric guitar. Creative Commons courtesy photo.
Mar 2 2024 @ 7:30 pm
Interweaving the classic songs and jams of The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band and The Band, Dead Man’s Waltz performs as an all-star collective from the Northeast festival scene.
a double bass catches the light on its bridge and bow in a purple-shadowed room. Creative Commons courtesy photo
Mar 3 2024 @ 10:00 am
Every first Sunday of the month, Pete Toigo and Dave Bartley bring a morning of music — soulful jazz and blues with Pete on bass and Dave piano and vocals.
A microphone waits in golden light. Creative Commons courtesy photo.
Mar 6 2024 @ 7:00 pm
The Egremont Barn welcomes all comers to perform on the tavern stage for a night of acoustic music in a friendly space.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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