Members Rufus Cappadocia: 5 string cello, quarter tone lute
Bethany Yarrow: voice, electric lute
Bonga Jean Baptiste: Haitian percussion , kalimba, voice
Yacouba Moumouni: Fulani flute and voice
Sheila Anozier: dance
About The Band
Having recently returned from the Festival Daoula in Bamako, Mali; Bethany & Rufus have expanded their group formation to include Yacouba Moumouni (Niger) and Haitian Percussionist 'Bonga' Jean-Baptiste. The expanded group came into being on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their Label Daqui. Yacouba was appearing with his ground breaking group from Niger, Mamar Kassey, on the same stage as Bethany and Rufus . Yacouba joined Bethany & Rufus for one of the songs and the rest is the kind of magic chemistry that can never be planed.
The following summer the expanded group along with Bonga was invited to perform at Les Nuits Atypique and while doing a promotional spot on Radio France for the festival they were invited to perform on the Live a FIP radio series in March of 2009 that will be released as a Live CD September 10 2009 as a co- production with Radio France and Daqui Records.
It was in the process of rehearsing that the group really came into focus. Bethany as the daughter of legendary 60's Folk singer Peter Yarrow (Peter , Paul & Mary) draws from the many songs that her father collected as part of the seminal folk movement of the 60s. Yacouba has dug deeply into the folkloric Hausa, Djerma, Peul and Songhai traditions of Niger and Bonga is the descendant of a very rich lineage of Vodou ceremonial drumming and song. Bonga has also traveled extensively through Haiti collecting and learning the different manifestations of Haitian song and folklore. Rufus has taken the cello into previously unknown realms and is noted for his collaborations in African, Arabic, and American music forms and also has a solo CD Songs for Cello on the Daqui label. Individually all of the members of the group have been instrumental in expanding the role of traditional forms in their respective musics. It is with this background that they have come together to create a sound that although based around the song forms of American traditional music reaches back to a common root that has inspired everyone involved.
In 2003, Bethany released her debut CD, entitled "Rock Island", to amazing (and amazed) reviews. Beautifully produced by Kevin Salem (Mercury Rev, Bad Brains, Chocolate Genius) and Knox Chandler (David Gahan, Siouxsie & the Banshees), the CD mixed the gloss of pop production with banjos, dulcimers, harmonicas, slide guitars, gospel choirs, and the sampled ghosts of some of the great blues singers in America. In totally unexpected ways, Bethany took traditional slave lullabies, prison songs, and murder ballads, and turned them into grooving electronic pop for a new generation.
Bethany's brand of folk has certainly struck a chord across the country, and ears are beginning to perk up noticeably... HBO recently featured her version of "Black is the Color" in their series Cat House, and listeners have been knocked out by her "fascinating" and "dramatic" interpretations. Her voice has been called, "mesmerizing", "intense", "powerful", "spell-binding".... "A cross between PJ Harvey and Annie Lennox... Dido and Grace Slick..." Bethany has been dubbed a "musical medium", crossing genres and time, and in re-inventing these deeply American songs, Bethany has not only taken them into the future, she has made them deeply her own.
Although Bethany has dedicated herself to music for the past several years, she started out as a documentary filmmaker. In between her junior and senior years at college, Bethany was awarded a fellowship to go to South Africa to make a documentary about the women in the townships outside of Cape Town. What emerged was the award-winning film, "Mama Awethu!", which aired nationally on PBS and won numerous prizes at film festivals around the world including the the Sundance, Berlin, Human Rights Watch, and Bombay Film Festivals.
"I never planned on being a filmmaker," says Bethany. "I just had something to say, and it seemed like film was the best way to tell that story. Sometimes music is not the best vehicle. But right now the story I want to tell is in music. Maybe one day, when I have another story that needs telling, I'll make another film, but for the moment, making music is more than enough work!"
"I've studied a lot of different musical vocabularies," Rufus Cappadocia explains. "And I've played with musicians literally from around the world. But, in the end, music all comes down to a single source. You can be pulled this way or that, but essentially it all converges on the same location. Every doorway leads back to one place." He pauses before adding with a laugh, "I guess you could say my whole life has been an attempt at getting to that place." Meet cellist Rufus Cappadocia, a multi-lingual musician, performer, composer and recording artist of incredible range and diversity. From the modalities of Middle Eastern, West African and pan-European folk forms to blues, rock and jazz along the way, adding elements American roots, Mediterranean textures, and Caribbean percussion for good measure, Cappadocia's effortless and natural embrace of all music is awe-inspiring.
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Cappadocia picked up his first cello at the age of three, but to call him a prodigy is to miss the point. "I've always had a problematic relationship with my instrument," he muses. "It's been the essential means of expression for me, but the standard career paths it can lead you down leave a lot to be desired." Cappadocia realized early on that the strictures of classical music couldn't come close to capturing the soaring sounds he heard in his head. "The first time I ever heard a walking bass line, something stirred deep inside. When I heard B.B. King's 'The Thrill Is Gone' for the first time, I actually wept. It was like suddenly discovering that I hadn't been alone all that time."
Cappadocia moved to Montreal to attend McGill University, where he spent hours in its library's ethno-musicology department, discovering everything from the Pygmy chants of the West African rain forest to vintage Bulgarian folk recordings. "It was a tremendously productive time," he enthuses. "I was learning Hendrix and Coltrane riffs note-for-note. I got deeply in the city's progressive jazz scene and developed and built a solid-body five string electric cello, so I could hold my own with other electric instruments. Eventually I'd hook it up to a battery and play on the streets and in the subway stations."
Leaving school, Cappadocia relocated to Europe, where his busking landed him in Southern France and, eventually, Spain, where he was first exposed to the mix of Romish and Arabic influences that reached their apotheosis in Flamenco. "I used it all," he says. "The slapping techniques on the guitar; the way the dance steps carried the rhythms. It was all part of a search for something, even if I didn't know exactly what I was looking for."
That search would subsequently lead him to New York where he set up a more or less permanent base, intent, in his words, "on playing with as many different musicians as I could. If my travels had taught me anything, it was the value of playing with other artists." In short order Cappadocia joined the multi-faceted jazz ensemble, The Paradox Trio, though the nomadic artist was embraced by virtually every artist and musical community he sought out, including such widely assorted musicians as Celtic pioneer Seamus Eagan and master Haitian drummer "Bonga" Jean-Baptiste with the Voodoo Drums of Haiti; musical polymath Ross Daly, who was instrumental in introducing Cappadocia to Middle Eastern and Balkan music; Vishal Vaid, a virtuoso Indian Ghazal vocalist and guitarist David Fiuczynski, with whom he formed the Eastern Modal fusion group, Kif.
Add to this list such marquee names as Aretha Franklin, Odetta, Cheick Tidiane Seck, and Vernon Reid, former guitarist of Living Color - all of whom Cappadocia has worked with - and his reputation as a world-class artist with a world-spanning musical reach makes perfect sense. And, like that list, it's a reputation that continues to grow as the cellist forges new alliances in the most unlikely musical domains.
Which, in the final analysis, is the whole point. "I look back on everything I've been doing for the last twenty years," Cappadocia concludes, "and can see the way it's all linked and how it circles back to the beginning. With Songs For Cello, I've returned to solo performance again. It's all live, with an emphasis on the intuitive. Those are the things I've learned how to do through all my explorations and collaborations. Even as I've incorporated these experiences, it brings me back to the basics and it's the same with the music. Eastern modal traditions; Hendrix riffs; the blues and folk music; it's all one source that you keep tapping into in different ways."
It's a lifelong quest that had made Rufus Cappadocia a master of music's universal language, in all its astounding diversity.
Bonga Jean Baptiste
Gaston Jean-Baptiste, known as "Bonga", is a musical virtuoso who has been performing and studying traditional Haitian drum, dance and song since the age of seven. He began playing drums in his family's peristil in his
hometown of Croix-des-Mission in La Plaine, an area of Haiti known for culture and history.
Bonga is regarded as a master of the Afro Haitian drum, sought-after for his extensive repertoire of pan-African rhythms. A dynamic performer, accompanist, session player and educator, Bonga works on stage, in the recording studio, and in educational settings. He is one of the few drum experts and craftsmen outside of Haiti who continues to build traditional drums using techniques that are centuries old.
As a core member of the seminal Haitian roots bands, Boukman Eksperyans and Foulą, Bonga was invited to the U.S. in the '90s when musicians were becoming a strong voice for the Haitian people. Since then, Bonga has continued to play solo and in ensemble and at numerous worldwide venues. He is a featured performer with Peter Yarrow, Grace Jones, Dan Zanes and Urban Tap, to mention a few. His drums opened the NY premiere of the Rolling Stones "Voodoo Lounge" tour and he is prominently featured on recordings by Wyclef Jean and Salif Keita.
Bonga's first CD, Kanzo (2000), incorporates elements of jazz, blues, and funk to create a dynamic version of mizik rasin. The recording features Lou Reed, bassist Fernando Saunders, and trumpeter Frank London. Bonga's second CD, Ayiti Afrika (2006), received critical acclaim. Featuring cellist Rufus Cappadocia, multi instrumentalist Peck Allmond and Guinean balafonist, Famoro Dioubate, Ayiti Afrika explores the African roots of Haitian music.
Yacouba Moumouni is a singer and flautist, leader of the jazz-ethnic band from Niger, Mamar Kassey. Moumouni is probably the best known Nigerien musician outside the country, and is much beloved in his home country.
Born in 1966 in a small sahel town some 125 miles from Niamey, Moumouni (born: Yacouba Moumouni Alzouna) herded cattle with his family until his father died when he when he was 10. Falling out with his brother, he ran away to the capital, where he lived on the street for two years until his talent attracted the attention of a music teacher, and he was taken on as an apprentice. Mastering the traditional flute, he joined the Ballet National of Niger and then formed Mamar Kassey, an eight man group featuring Moumouni and guitarist Abdallah Alhassane. Together they have toured West Africa, Europe, and the United States, and have become the most popular musical group in Niger.
With his melodic Fulani flute playing and soft-spoken vocals in the Songhai or Peul language, Moumouni has helped to preserve the musical traditions of Niger. He had his first break after meeting vocalist Absatou Danté, the sister of Danté Alhassane , the director Ballet National du Niger, in 1979. For the next seven years, Dante exposed him to the musical traditions of Niger and taught him the intricacies of Nigerian flute playing. After playing with Harouna Marounfa's band, in 1986 Yacouba accepted an invitation to join traditional band Zongo. Together with the group, he toured and performed in Korea, Libya, Algeria, and West Africa. Transferring to Orchestre Takeda, the house band at the musical academy Centre de Formation et de Promotion Musicale (CFPM), in 1990, Yacouba was mentored by the group's director and lead guitarist, Abdoulaye Alhassane. He remained with the band for five years. Together with other CFPM musicians, including Ahlassane, Yacouba formed Mamar Kassey in 1995. The band's debut album, Alatoumi, released in 1999 on the French Daqui label, was followed by Denke-Denke two years later.
Bethany Yarrow Rock Island (2003) Firetoy Music Retail: iTunes
Peter, Bethany & Rufus Puff & Other Family Classics (October 2, 2007)
Retail: Barnes & Noble
"This is American music that reaches out to invite and include so much more. Most of the songs have a sad undercurrent and yet at the hands of these two artists they emerge as shining songs for a new time." - ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"I've been in the music business for 37 years now and I've had my artists perform at amazing shows including Live Aid and Carnegie Hall. I have to rank Bethany & Rufus show for us in my "Top 20" of all time. Mezmerising and inventive...our audience was slack-jawed." - MINDY GILES, SWELL PRODUCTIONS
"Filled with dust and desire.... their CD gets better and better with each listen!" - AMAZON.COM
"Yarrow has a keen, dusky-voiced musicianship that blurs folk, rock and pop... it is, though, Cappadocia's brilliance that gives this [music] its remarkable sheen. His palette...is incredibly rich and amazingly clever." - JAZZ TIMES
"There's no denying that in a world where a lot of fluffy pop passes as folk, Bethany and Rufus - in taking a more original road - have come up with the real deal." - ALLMUSIC.COM
"Bethany delivers low, smoky tones that call to mind Nina Simone or Cassandra Wilson. With stunning imagination, Bethany and Rufus move.... in arresting new directions. Bravo!" - GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
"The duo see themselves as a roots... but the musical results are really beyond category, with touches of jazz, gospel and something contemporary. Their unique sound starts with Bethany's phrasing, which can be quite loose, even ethereal. Then there's Rufus' five-string cello - played pizzicato, jazz style and bowed, incorporating the bass range and world music rhythms... It's an often bewitching chemistry." - Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal (Oct. 12, 2007)
"Bethany & Rufus' simple blues changes, couples with the primordial funkiness of Cappadocia's cello, evoke the ancient world that serves as a backdrop for 900 Miles - all ragged tombstones and railroad unspooling forever in one direction. Still, they're trying to make that world seem less parochial. - Rachel Swan, East Bay Express
"In folk's footsteps... They may be following in them, but Bethany Yarrow and Rufus Cappadocia are also reinventing the genre in a style that's all their own." - Naila Francis, The Intelligencer
"Rufus Cappadocia plays cello. Not just any cello, mind you, but a five-string electric instrument of his own design. It's one of a kind, music like the man himself... Cappadocia has made a career of going where few cellists have gone before." - Mark Miller, Globe & Mail (April 3, 2002)
"When Rufus Cappadocia performs, it's obvious he's transported into a space beyond the walls of the immediate venue. Between pieces, he's modest and gracious to the audience, but everyone seems to evaporate the moment the first notes sail through the air. His entire being is enveloped by music, especially when he finds a groove or a refrain that captivates him. The Hamilton native cannot be described adequately by the noun "cellist." He is an artist, and his canvas is a five-string cello, which he designed himself." - James Hayashi-Tennant, Hamilton Magazine (Summer 2002)
"Dark, minimalist and haunting folk for the new millennium. Bethany Yarrow's debut album, 2003's Rock Island, was a gem of deep, dark folk music that redefined American folk for the new century in the same way that Jim Moray did for British." - Jeremy Searle