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The House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Nov 5 1997
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On the Blue in the Face soundtrack, David Byrne tried to match the achievement of Wayne Wang's superlative film -- that is, to give the outsider an insider's look at Brooklyn. While the musical selection was inspired -- Lou Reed, Soul Coughing, Astor Piazzolla, John Lurie, Da Bush Babees, Paula Cole, La Casa -- the album would have fallen short if not for the genius of New York performer Danny Hoch. On Blue in the Face, Hoch creates breathtaking 35-second portraits of slick-talking Caribbean DJs, shit-talking Brooklyn fly boys, harassed Muslim busboys, and horrifying wannabe guidos with tinted windows. His latest show, Evolution of a Homeboy: Jails, Hospitals & Hip Hop, brings his insightful humor and street-wise integrity to a new cast of panethnic characters. Hoch performs in a Berkeley Repertory Theater presentation at the Julia Morgan Theater through Sunday, Nov. 16 (no shows on Mondays). Tickets are $34.50-45; call (510) 845-4700 for times.

Coincidentally, Sally Nyolo also had ties to Blue in the Face. Nyolo's libidinous vocals can be heard throughout the soundtrack's "To My Ba-bay!," a sultry, breathy, almost pornographic collaboration between Spearhead and Zap Mama. On the Cameroon-born singer's debut -- Tribu, released by the cultivated folks over at Rohnert Park's Tinder Records -- Nyolo reveals her Parisian and zouk sensibilities with polyrhythmic guitar lines, shakers, gourds, marimba, and electronic percussion. Nyolo performs at the Justice League on Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 440-0409.

Inspired by surf maestros like the Ventures (who are also playing this week; see Concerts), bands like Pollo Del Mar have dragged beach party tunes through the sand and up onto the blacktop of aural decay (see their The Ocean Is Not for Cowards, which, aside from the impassioned ode to Erik Estrada, is an entirely instrumental seaside delicacy that gives new meaning to snorkels). "Sonic Swell 3" brings together three bands from sunny, smog-ridden Los Angeles (15-year veterans Insect Surfers, Brazil 2001, and Slackbone) and two bands from drizzly, fog-banked San Francisco (Pollo Del Mar and Jumbo Shrimp) for a boogie board free-for-all. The Swell rolls into the Transmission Theater on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 861-6906.

Seventeen years ago S.F. political group Accion Latina started Encuentro del Canto Popular, a musical pageant for Latin American artists. The show is now the Bay Area's premier border-defying artist exchange. In 1993, Encuentro gained national attention when Mexcla, a Cuban band scheduled to perform at the festival, were denied visas because of the U.S. embargo. Encuentro and several other cultural organizations sued the State Department. Although the case was dismissed earlier this year, it is a testament to Encuentro's vigilance that a number of Cuban artists were granted visas this year, including Mexcla, who will headline the show -- four years later. Better late than never. Mexcla perform with Andean warrior outfit Grupo Arauco and Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeno Band on Friday, Nov. 7, and with Orixa, Puerto Rican poet Piri Thomas, and Campana on Saturday, Nov. 8. Both shows will be held at the Great American Music Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets for each show are $20; call 885-0750.

The morna -- a Creole variation on the elegant Portuguese fado and the Brazilian choro -- is, as the name might suggest even to a domestic ear, a song intended to evoke sentiment. It is a vocal lament, a collective mourning that integrates the singer's personal losses of love, youth, and family with the greater loss of hope felt by the impoverished peoples who inhabit the African island nation of Cape Verde. As far as the Western world is concerned, no one voice has fully embodied the depth of the morna quite like Cesaria Evora. Evora's woody tenor and warm melancholy inspired David Byrne to release the Afropea compilations on Luaka Bop; her chart-topping 1995 Nonesuch debut confirmed the profitability of authentic "world music." Cabo Verde finds Evora in, what is for her, a playful mood. She returns periodically to the coladeira -- the relaxed, rhythmic dance music that made her famous in the smoky port saloons on her home island of Sao Vincente -- giving the new release more rhythmic variety. Despite the occasional emergence of saxophone or clarinet in the place of violin or cavaquinho (a small, four-stringed guitar), drums remain notably absent in Evora's work. Her backing band does not push the music forward; it merely furnishes a rich accompaniment for the voice that will ultimately speak for them all. Even as Evora saunters around the stage shoeless and relaxed, drinking straight shots of alcohol and smoking cigarettes during instrumental interludes, it is clear that she knows what your sigh-racked soul needs most, and it comes from somewhere deep within that comfortably padded, but somber-faced frame. Evora performs at the Berkeley Community Theater on Sunday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-25; call 885-0750.

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor

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