3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD, 21224
Show Type: In-Person Event
The New York Times wrote in their recent article about the changing face of solo guitar, (Yasmine) Williams, 25, is one of the country’s most imaginative young solo guitarists. Released in January, her second album, “Urban Driftwood”, represents a clear break with the form’s stoic, folk-rooted mores. No Depression wrote “Urban Driftwood is a dizzyingly magnificent as starting up at the night sky on a clear night and seeing the universe unfold before your very eyes.” These words of praise come from journalists (Grayson Haver Currin and Laura Stanely, respectively) who were part of the many that found Yasmin Williams innovative musical direction to be a thrilling, welcomed light amidst the pandemic. In a form long dominated by white men, most notable John Fahey, Williams is young and Black and is who is using new inspiration and techniques push the solo guitar form is new directions.
For this show, Amadou Kouyate, an inventive kora and djembe player and descendent of a long line of Manding Griot’s will open. He collaborated with Yesmin on her recent record. Expect a thrilling evening.
Yasmin Williams sits on her leather couch, her guitar stretched across her lap horizontally with its strings turned to the sky. She taps on the fretboard with her left hand as her right hand plucks a kalimba placed on the guitar’s body. Her feet, clad in tap shoes, keep rhythm on a mic’d wooden board placed under her. Even with all limbs in play, it’s mind boggling that the melodic and percussive sounds that emerge are made by just one musician, playing in real time. With her ambidextrous and pedidextrous, multi-instrumental techniques of her own making and influences ranging from video games to West African griots subverting the predominantly white male canon of fingerstyle guitar, Yasmin Williams is truly a guitarist for the new century. So too is her stunning sophomore release, "Urban Driftwood", an album for and of these times. Though the record is instrumental, its songs follow a narrative arc of 2020, illustrating both a personal journey and a national reckoning, through Williams’ evocative, lyrical compositions.
A native of northern Virginia, Williams, now 24, began playing electric guitar in 8th grade, after she beat the video game Guitar Hero 2 on expert level. Initially inspired by Jimi Hendrix and other shredders she was familiar with through the game, she quickly moved on to acoustic guitar, finding that it allowed her to combine fingerstyle techniques with the lap-tapping she had developed through Guitar Hero, as well as perform as a solo artist. By 10th grade, she had released an EP of songs of her own composition. Deriving no lineage from “American primitive” and rejecting the problematic connotations of the term, Williams’ influences include the smooth jazz and R&B she listened to growing up, Hendrix and Nirvana, go-go and hip-hop. Her love for the band Earth, Wind and Fire prompted her to incorporate the kalimba into her songwriting, and more recently, she’s drawn inspiration from other Black women guitarists such as Elizabeth Cotten, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Algia Mae Hinton. On "Urban Driftwood", Williams references the music of West African griots through the inclusion of kora (which she recently learned) and by featuring the hand drumming of 150th generation djeli of the Kouyate family, Amadou Kouyate, on the title track. Since its release in January 2021, "Urban Driftwood" has been praised by numerous publications such as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Wasington Post, NPR Music, No Depression, Paste Magazine, and many others. Williams will be touring in support of "Urban Driftwood" throughout 2021.
Amadou Koyate, born in Washington, DC, is the 150th generation of the Kouyate lineage and has studied and performed Manding music since the age of three years old. Amadou is a dynamic djembe and koutiro drummer. He also plays the 21-string kora, which he learned first with his father, Djimo Kouyate and other master Diali --oral historians/musicians-- of Manding tradition in West Africa. Amadou has dedicated his life to the task of become an ambassador of African culture to the world. The catalyst for such a responsibility is the passion he has for reconnecting those of the African Diasporas to one another. His repertoire ranges from traditional songs from the 13th century to contemporary original compositions incorporating blues and jazz riffs.