October 17, 2013

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Collective soul searching with Beats Antique

THE STORY BEGINS, AS SO MANY DO, WITH A RENOWNED BELLY dancer approaching her manager (brother to one of the five greatest drummers of all time according to Rolling Stone) about producing an album. When Miles Copeland gave his thumbs-up to the project, Beats Antique (Dave Satori, Zoe Jakes and Tommy Cappel) got to work recording Tribal Derivations. From that moment on, it has been clear that they are less a band and more an arts collective working in mixed media to produce an experience that celebrates humaniy’s love affair with music.

For the sake of finding them in the record store Beats Antique might be called “world music,” but labels are limiting—too often an otherwise mediocre band will throw in a few ethnic instruments and a folk song or two and dub themselves “world music,” when what they really are is a thin and watery pastiche of the tradition they mean to represent. This simply isn’t the case with Beats Antique.The band might more accurately be described as “music of the world.” In a phone interview with Dave Satori,  he explained that one of the basic motivations of the band and its concept is to act as a bridge to culture, a way for listeners to experience a mélange of musical styles to which they would otherwise never be exposed. This isn’t just talk on Dave’s part; he has put his time in traveling here and abroad, including a tour of Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. Instead of bringing home the usual complement of cheap trinkets and souvenirs, Satori brought home musical traditions as old as humanity itself, incorporating these in to the soundscape of the band. This would be no easy feat were it not for the formidable talent of percussionist Tommy Cappel, the Berklee graduate whose credentials are simply too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that Cappel may one day find himself ranked as one of the greatest drummers of all time, Rolling Stone or otherwise.

If Satori is a collector of musical styles, then his longtime partner Zoe Jakes is an interpreter of those styles, transforming the aural to the visual through dance. Already an accomplished dancer in the disciplines of ballet and jazz, Jakes took up belly dance in 2000 and has since risen to become one of the most recognized, admired and beloved figures in the belly dance community.  She brings all of that experience and skill to the stage with Beats Antique, describing the meeting of sound and movement as “interpretive story-telling,” itself an ancient and universal tradition throughout the world. If this all seems a little primal—that’s because it is, and it is meant to be.  Through sound and movement, Beats Antique deconstructs humanity to a place where there are no fences, no barriers, echoing a time when our strength came from the shared experience of huddling around a fire at night remembering our history and traditions through the beat of the drum and the whirl of the dancer.

The band’s dedication to this sort of cosmic collective soul searching has won them the endorsement and support of the Joseph Campbell Foundation in anticipation of their upcoming album, A Thousand Faces.  The album is an exploration of Campbell’s “hero with a thousand faces” concept of archetypes and the monomyth, and it is hard to imagine a better vehicle than Beats Antique for making such an exploration. Their approach to music, dance, costume, design and performance is nothing if not a celebration of the common origins of our species. It’s a reminder that no matter how different we may see ourselves from our fellow human beings, we are all made from the same stuff and ultimately we all came from the same place. Through their multiculturalism they become trans-cultural and through their trans-culturalism they become the living embodiment of the very thing they pay homage to, the ancient storyteller. 

Their work is fascinating and thought-provoking, not only for what it is but for what it may yet become. The way these three young people embrace art precludes boundaries to their performance. It is not in the least unlikely to think that one day they might invite sculptors on stage to transform blocks of ice into primitive gods and goddesses. Perhaps they will drape the stage in canvas and invite the audience to create a great, collective mural of the night’s theme. Whatever they do next, there is no doubt it will speak to unity of mankind and remind us of that thing we too often forget:  We are all in this together.


October 17, 2013

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