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Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sessions

4.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sessions
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  • The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2
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  • Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn
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Editorial Reviews

Full title: Throw Down Your Heart/Tales From The Acoustic Planet Vol. 3/Africa Sessions. 2009's Throw Down Your Heart chronicles banjo virtuoso and 18 time Grammy award winner Bela Fleck's musical journey to Africa to explore the little known African roots of the banjo. Bela's boundary-breaking musical adventure takes him to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, and provides a glimpse of the beauty and complexity of African music. Using his banjo, Bela transcends barriers of language and culture, finding common ground and forging connections with musicians from very different backgrounds. Throw Down Your Heart is also the title of the award-winning documentary film about Bela's journey to Africa.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 3, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • ASIN: B001PXYHDW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,139 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Williams on March 22, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Overview:

Bela Fleck took his banjo and traveled across Africa including visits to Uganda, Mali, Tanzania, and South Africa. At each location Bela jammed and recorded with the local stars, including kora master Toumani Diabate, guitarist D'Gary, vocalists Oumani Sangare and Baba Maal, ngoni player Baekou Kouyate, djembe player Madou Sanogo. This brief list of African stars only scratches the surface of what probably amounts to about 100 different African musicians that play on the various tracks on this album. Each track features a different group of musicians and is recorded in a different locale. The end result is a magnificent fusion of the banjo and traditional African music. There is just an enormous amount of material here with a total of 18 tracks. With so much diversity of material you are likely to find a track two that disagree with your tastes, but overall its hard to imagine any fans of Bela Fleck and/or traditional African music not loving this CD. My only criticism is it is too bad that legendary kora master Toumani Diabate only plays on one track. However, the two are currently touring the together, so if your lucky and they come to your town, you can see more of their amazing chemistry in concert.

Song Highlights:

D'Gary Jam - this is track features an all-star cast included Toumani Diabate and his Malian band, D'Gary on guiar, plus great vocals.

Throw Down Your Heart - Written by Bela Fleck on his way to Africa during a layover in Amsterdam, this is the best song writing on the CD. A great new Bela Fleck tune played with a small group of musicians from Mali.

Ah Ndiya - This track is highlighted by the gorgeous vocals of Oumani Sangare. Pretty and moving.
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Whenever I see a new Bela Fleck album is being released, I order it immediately. Bela is one of maybe 3 artists whose work I can always count on loving at first hearing, no matter what style of music it is. (And Bela has always been an eclectic and adventurous musician, exploring a wide range of musical genres.) This album is certainly no exception. The music contained on this CD is among the most soulful and hypnotic I've ever heard, and does an excellent job of illustrating the journey Bela undertook, to explore the African roots of the banjo. Also, I literally wept when I read the liner note explaining the album's title... then I wept again when I explained it to my wife! I am a huge fan of all Bela's diverse body of work, but the acoustic planet series is especially satisfying. Now I can't wait to see the documentary!
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Format: Audio CD
The music on this CD is a collection of jams recorded while Fleck was traveling in Africa. I really admire Fleck's effort, but it falls short among other "banjo back to its roots" recordings. There are a few inspired moments, some ragged collaborations and a few things that simply don't work. The CD is interesting but does not stand up to repeated plays.

By comparison, "From Africa to Appalachia" by Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko is a far better recording. The musicians are finely attuned to each other and the tracks are bursting with creative energy. From a musical standpoint, "From Africa to Appalachia" should be up for the Grammy instead of "Throw Down Your Heart." But Fleck has the big name and Stone's CD is just a little gem on a little label without much distribution. You can listen to Stone on Amazon and compare: Africa to Appalachia. My favorite tracks are "Djula", "Dakar" and "June Apple".

Fleck has a chance to best Stone if he records a live or studio album from his tour with Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba (Segu Blue) in the spring of 2010.

If you're really into "banjo back to its roots", you should also check out Cheik Hamala Diabate and Bob Carlin (From Mali To America). It features quiet duets where Carlin is the student learning from the master, rather than the collaboration of equals found on "From Africa to Appalachia".
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Format: Audio CD
On THROW DOWN YOUR HEART, banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck travels to Africa to trace the origins of his main instrument and play with local musicians. In doing this, he has created a beautiful album affirms his role in the banjo continuum and highlights some wonderful performances by his African host musicians. This album is a five star tour of the wonders of African music that uncovers one stunning performance after another. Working in several countries and with different musicians on each track, the album is packed start to finish with strong performances that will keep the adventurous music fan coming back again and again to enjoy. Also be aware that a film version of Fleck's journey will soon be released.
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These songs and tunes in audio isolation (vs. with visuals on his fine documentary DVD) are both powerful and playful. We get to hear a wide range of regions and performers (some not covered on the DVD - such as D'Gary, Toumani Diabate, and Vusi Mahlasela), and in full (unlike the partial clips we often hear on the DVD). I keep referring to the documentary, and if you have come to this soundtrack from that experience then you know how good this music is. If you have somehow stumbled upon this Fleck musical adventure (Banjo-returns-to-Africa) from another direction, then rest assured this is the recording of a wonderful musical interaction/friendship between American banjo master Bela Fleck and a wide range of African musicians (obscure to superstar). Sometimes it is super slick and at others as raw as you can get. Fleck is playing the banjo throughout, but sometimes I forget he is there. At it's best, such as on the (8 nation) "D'Gary Jam", it reminds me of the percolating and abundant sound of "Sleeper" from Little Worlds (Dig), but just as wonderful are the intimate and simple sessions such as when Bela jams with ngoni master Basekou Koutaye, or Malian diva Oumou Sangare (with her pure, rich and achingly heartfelt singing), or vocalist/thumb-piano virtuoso Anania Ngoliga.

If you love the DVD you'll love this CD, if you love this CD you'll love the DVD... The liner notes are also quite good and include plenty of pictures and personal comments from Bela.
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