Robyn Hitchcock & Tarika Mesmerize Audiences

Cover art from Hitchcock's last album.

Tarika,

one of Africa's best, and most infectious, groove-oriented Afro-pop bands,

settled down at Johnny D's, a Somerville haunt that specializes in folk and

world music, and across town in Cambridge, Brit cult-idol Robyn Hitchcock

finished the last of two shows at Cambridge's T.T. the Bears, Hitchcock's

preferred Boston-area locale, before a seemingly hypnotized audience that

soaked up every note Hitchcock played during his solo sets.

Tarika, led by

Hanitra Rasoanaivo and her sister Noro, were touring behind Son Egal, a

run-away success for Madagascar's best-known crossover act. With their liberal

mix of East- and West-African styles, their incorporation of both indigenous

and Western instruments, and their ceaseless energy and upbeat enthusiasm (even

when singing about political repression), Tarika, as Hana put it, specializes

in mixing things that "aren't supposed to be mixed."

Starting off with

"Voandalana" (fruit of the tree) from Son Egal, Tarika immediately

established a buoyant, groove-heavy tone that had the initially shy crowd up

and dancing before the song was over. In addition to the Rasoanaivo sisters,

Tarika has three instrumentalists --Ny Ony on various guitars and basses, as

well as the kabosy (a small Malagasy guitar) and Solobass; Donn plays

percussion, marovany (box zither), valiha (bamboo zither), kabosy, and

melodeon; and Solo plays bass as well as the kabosy, the valiha, and the

marovany, and also adds bass vocals -- and together the female led quintet

(somewhat of a rarity in African bands) makes beautiful music that truly

transcends borders and makes you want to get down and boogie...

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