Kinobe juxtaposes East and West Africa in delicate, polished grooves | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Kinobe juxtaposes East and West Africa in delicate, polished grooves


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For the better part of two decades, virtuosic multi-instrumentalist Herbert Kinobe has composed exquisite Pan-African music from a Ugandan perspective. Born in 1983 in a small village outside Kampala near Lake Victoria, Kinobe (he performs under his last name) grew up hearing the music at the nearby Kanyange Nnamasole Tombs, a historic Buganda cultural site that regularly holds ceremonies and rituals, and at age nine he joined his school choir, which toured Europe. Kinobe’s journey has since taken him around the world, and since 2008 he’s divided much of his time between Kampala and Washington, D.C. Kinobe’s repertoire of original and traditional songs creates mesmerizing journeys that often highlight a single instrument at a time, flowing from one sonic texture to another as he complements his arrangements with his velvety voice. He always includes the sounds of his Bugandan roots, including shimmering cascades of notes from the bowl-shaped endongo lyre and reverberating plinks from the metallic keys of the akogo thumb piano, but he’s also spent much of his life strengthening his grasp of musical traditions beyond his homeland. At age 18, in 2001, Kinobe traveled to Bamako to study with Malian kora master Toumani Diabaté, eventually becoming a highly accomplished player himself; he’s also learned many other West African instruments. A committed educator and activist, he often tackles social and political subjects in his lyrics, always couching them in beautiful, delicate, and near-meditative grooves that weave together East and West African traditions at the intersection of Afropop and Afrofolk. He hasn’t been to Chicago since early this decade, and at this show he’ll perform in a duet with Ugandan percussionist and painter Denis Sewanyana. Against a backdrop of Sewanyana’s paintings, Kinobe’s remarkable collection of instruments—many of them homemade—will make for a rich visual feast to accompany the musical one.   v

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