Photographer and Reviewer: Jennifer Coelho
Artist: Rising Appalachia
Location: National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM
Date: February 6, 2022
The night started off with music provided by Arouna and Zaza Diarra and Biko Cassini, which was not only enjoyable but educational as well. Arouna taught the crowd about the n’goni – a gorgeous harp-like instrument which he also crafts by hand. He and Zaza also spoke of the villages where they came from and the background of the beautiful music that they sang. While Cassini spoke of what attracted him to this music which was inspired by a trip to Africa to Burkina Faso, West Africa – the exact place where Arouna is from. It seems like the universe pushed for something more because shortly after, he met Arouna and their musical kinship began.
There was a brief intermission after their set before Chloe Smith and Leah Song – the sister duo of Rising Appalachia took to the stage. The two opened the evening singing an a cappella sans for percussion number which was absolutely breathtaking. Afterwards, Biko Cassini on percussion; David Brown on bass, banjo & guitar and Duncan Wickel on fiddle and cello joined the sisters on stage – where they remained for the rest of the night (and were later joined by Arouna for a few numbers). As for Chloe and Leah, both took turns throughout the night playing various instruments – Chloe on fiddle and guitar with Leah also on fiddle, banjo and various smaller percussion instruments.
The setlist ranged from traditional instrumentals to the jazzy-blues lead off track, “Catalyst” from their latest album, The Lost Mystique of Being in the Know and everything in between. While the band’s range is eclectic, the audience fully trusted their musicianship, letting each song take them on a musical journey. So much so that by the end of the night at the encouragement of Leah & Chloe people were literally dancing in aisles. If that’s not a sign of a great show, I’m not sure what is!