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 …

An electric guitar gleams.
Sep 23 2023 @ 8:00 pm
Wes Buckley, Brian Kantor, Miles Lally and Sam McGarrity, known as Vaguely Pagan, keep an audience moving with their roadhouse-rhythmdelics and underbilly sound.
Crowds gather for live music at FreshGrass. Press photo courtesy of Mass MoCA.
Sep 24 2023 @ 12:00 am
FreshGrass returns with a lineup of classic bluegrass, folk, world and international musicians — Grammy-winning vocalist and banjoist Rhiannon Giddens, the Dropkick Murphys and many more.
Light plays over an acoustic guitar. Courtesy photo by viinzography.
Sep 30 2023 @ 7:30 pm
Fatboy Wilson & Old Viejo Bones, a new project from acclaimed Brooklyn folk and blues musicians Samoa Wilson and Ernesto Gomez, blends original songs and inventive interpretations of folk and blues.
Dobro guitar close-up. Creative Commons courtesy photo.
Oct 1 2023 @ 7:30 pm
Band leader Isaac Stanford brings fellow Philadelphia musicians, including David Streim and Freddie Berman from the Amos Lee band, to learn a selection of old steel guitar instrumentals.

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.

If you’d like to see the website grow, you can join me for a few dollars a month, enough for a cup of coffee and a cider doughnut. Members get access to extra stories and multimedia, itineraries a bookmark tool. Let me know what you're looking for, and we’ll explore together.

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