An engagement at an African music festival took bandleader Jeremiah Lockwood as far from his musical roots as he’d ever ventured—and put him in tune with them anew
Jeremiah Lockwood is no stranger to unlikely musical syntheses. His band, The Sway Machinery, began by combining blues rhythms with the traditional liturgical melodies he’d learned from his grandfather, cantor Jacob Konigsberg. The band’s latest album, The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol. 1, represents a pairing of an entirely different sort. Last January, the band performed in Mali as part of the annual Festival in the Desert. While there, they recorded with local musicians, most notably Khaira Arby, the so-called “queen of desert music.” The result is an utterly unique—and unusually stirring—coming together of musical and religious traditions. Lockwood has described the trip as both a venturing out and a homecoming, and while the album’s juxtapositions could have been discordant—on one track Arby invokes Allah; on another, Lockwood sings the Sabbath eve tune “Shalom Aleichem”—they feel as natural as can be.
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