Kalimba visionary Kevin Spears has introduced the African thumb piano into a world where ancient meets digital, and he’s encountered other like-minded pioneers along the way.
A collaboration with Bela Fleck percussionist Roy “Futureman” Wooten sparked the idea of launching an ongoing series of world music concerts pairing Spears with other musicians who explore the intersection of tradition and innovation. On Thursday, June 22 at the 7:30 p.m. performance “Masters of the Moment: World Edition,” Spears welcomes djembe master Adama Dembele to the White Horse Black Mountain stage.
Spears' kalimba pieces include both composed and improvisational elements, with digital percussive, bass and chordal loops layered to create a platform for soloing. While Spears honors the African roots of his chosen instruments, his penchant for pushing the envelope has earned comparisons to innovators like Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix, Les Paul and Charlie Parker.
Dembele is a master djembéfola (djembe player) from Ivory Coast in West Africa. Born into a family of hereditary musicians, he’s toured internationally with major artists such as Oumou Sangare, Salif Keita, Affou Keita, Sogona Djata and others. He’s also played in numerous drum and dance ensembles, a tradition he carried on after his 2005 move to the United States, eventually settling in Asheville where he teaches the art of West African drumming.
Dembele's current boundary-expanding group is Zansa, a band that blends original Afropop and Afrobeat sounds with traditional songs and rhythms of the Ivory Coast. Dembele is also a frequest guest with Asheville Afro-fusion group Toubab Krewe.