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Friday night, the World Beat Cultural Center hosted a double-bill concert featuring the sounds of the African diaspora as interpreted through the mind of Turiya Mareya and musical friends.

Opening were the Women's Spirit Music Ensemble, featuring Toni Pope, Ayanna Hobson, Angela Dias Crocitti, and Mary Lou Valencia.

They began with the otherworldly sounds of Pope's circular breathing on the didgeridoo, while Mareya, Crocitti, Hobson and Valencia all employed percussion instruments and chanting to set up a swirling, spiritual mood.

Pope changed to Tibetan prayer bowls, sending clouds of quavering, resonant overtones around the room while layering eerie, guttural throat-singing on top. She suddenly began intoning the lines, "I am a woman who heals myself," while the others incanted different fragments for a truly surreal effect. Crocitti and Hobson took over with vocals in a highly rhythmic aesthetic. Mareya then took to the piano and delivered a gospel-sounding original with heartfelt vocals.

Ignacio Arnago on electric bass, Irving Soto on congas, Nana Yaw Asiedu on West-African percussion, Paul Ruiz on trumpet, and Dave Millard on flutes, soprano saxophone and alto violin joined the women for a drum-heavy version of "Afro-Blue," that navigated along through the heartbeat thump of Arango's bass, which would provide the pulse for the rest of the evening. Millard took it into the stratosphere with his soprano spot, employing flurries and trills and evoking 'Trane all the way. Ruiz represents a nice amalgam of say, Arturo Sandoval meeting Lester Bowie--lightening strike runs, sculpted by growling phraseology.

They did a mesmerizing version of "Little Sunflower," with excellent solos by Millard, Ruiz, Arango, and especially buoyed by the sparkling congas of Soto.

Later on, guest appearances by violinist Jamie Shadowlight and pianist Lynn Willard took things up a notch on an unannounced Latin tune and "Blue Monk." Willard is a very strong pianist who doesn't get near enough performance opportunities in San Diego--and Shadowlight continues to grow as a soloist.

Fascinating evening of top-notch music that reinforced the fact that life, music and everything else began in Africa.

Photo by Jamie Shaowlight

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