Les Ambassadeurs: Music of Revolutionaries

The East Plaza pulsated with the melodies of rich, electrifying music as a crowd welcomed the Malian band Les Ambassadeurs to the Arts Center stage on ...

Nov 21, 2015

The East Plaza pulsated with the melodies of rich, electrifying music as a crowd welcomed the Malian band Les Ambassadeurs to the Arts Center stage on Nov. 18. The event was led by Bill Bragin, director of the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center, who began the show with a few words highlighting the significance of music in difficult times.
Bragin opened the show in remembrance of the Paris attacks and the Beirut bombing with a quote by Leonard Bernstein, who in the wake of former U.S. president John Kennedy’s assassination, said: “We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
Les Ambassadeurs has set out to produce revolutionary music since its formation in the 1970s initiation, and their presence at NYUAD testified to this mission. The audience enjoyed a two hour concert featuring singer-songwriter Salif Keita and singer-guitarist Amadou Bagayoko.
Freshman Daniel Obaji said he was lost for words when Bagayoko came to the stage to perform.
“At first I didn’t know what to expect, when I saw a blind man being assisted onto the stage,” said Obaji. “He performed the most fantastic melody on his guitar.”
The crowd’s singing echoed throughout the campus. Even Bragin was surprised to see the high turnout at his event.
“The response from the Abu Dhabi community was fantastic. We're seeing a growing percentage of people from off-campus, including audience members driving in from Dubai, joining an already supportive NYUAD student, faculty and staff audience,” he said.
“We're already recognizing a growing number of regulars who have come to multiple events that the Arts Center has presented,” he added.
Bragin also found the diversity of the audience to encompass the internationalism of the Abu Dhabi community.
To Bragin, the music of Les Ambassadeurs represents the best of the best of contemporary Malian music:
“They were true pioneers in modernizing Malian music in the post-independence era, asserting a contemporary Malian identity that also embraced internationalist influences — Cuban son, jazz, Motown and music from elsewhere in Africa,” said Bragin. “To be able to include master artists and cultural icons like Salif Keita, Amadou Bagayoko and Cheick Tidiane Seck, who have done so much innovative work, in our inaugural season for the Arts Center was truly an honor and a great promise of things to come.”
The next event at the Arts Center will be the musical performance of Rudresh Mahanthappa & Gamak, featuring progressive jazz and South Indian classical. Tickets can be reserved here.
Warda Malik is deputy news editor. Email her at 
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