When I think of world music, I never think of American names. For some reason the idea of “world” music sends me to Africa and Amadou & Mariam or AR Rahman in India. I suppose that thought process is, itself, quite American-too shortsighted about the world around us to think that making music in this genre isn’t something that only “they” do. Really, all music is world music. It’s why bands from the US can go to Japan and sell out arenas (although it doesn’t tend to work in reverse). So when I received Kate Quinby‘s album Tribute To Water after being introduced by our mutual friend Danny Surico (The Future Laureates), I was a bit dismayed by that “World Music” label.
As always it proved to be dim-witted on my part to make assumptions about anything without listening first. Where it only makes me THINK about Africa, Kate actually co-founded a charity in Uganda called the Dwon Madiki Partnership which helps pay for children’s education. There isn’t much influence in the way of sounds or rhythms, but the experiences definitely lent some world-weariness to the songs.
Actually, the music is fairly jazz-based in its nature. Lots of piano and trumpet, along with Quinby’s sweet, breathy voice often just above a whisper. If the songs were all sung in English, it would be very hard to call this anything other than a jazz record honestly. Especially when you hear the track “Katrina.” It’s a moving tune about a displaced Louisianan (Quinby) being forced to relocate after the hurricane. Instead of another sad story from 2007, this song celebrates life and the ability to move on stronger than before.
Tribute To Water has been out for a few weeks now, and it took me quite a few listens to decide if I really like it. I don’t love every song, but there is a lot I find compelling here. Much like the movie Babel I find its overall theme that the human experience is universal to be true and interesting. We may go about it differently or in ways that seem strange to others, but we all just want to be happy and live full lives.
The tracks are very minimal at times, so when something like “This Is Life” comes up it feels very spirited indeed. My favorite, though, is “Sin Parpadear.” Half sung Spanish and half spoken in English, it paints a vivid picture like we’re inside Quinby’s mind. She does a great job of conjuring the feeling of being right back in Argentina.