A tapestry of American roots, Haitian rhythms & African desert blues
Drawing from the roots music traditions of America, Niger, and Haiti; the Bethany & Rufus Roots Quartet, featuring Yacouba Moumouni and Bonga Jean-Baptiste, come together to create an unexpected tapestry -- weaving the desert winds of Africa with Vodou traditions of the new world and the folk music of America.
Individually all of the members of the group have been instrumental in expanding the role of traditional forms in their respective musics: Bethany, as the daughter of legendary 60’s Folk singer Peter Yarrow (Peter , Paul & Mary), draws from an incredible legacy of folk music she has been surrounded by since she was a child. Yacouba, a master of the fulani flute, is also one of the pre-eminent voices of Saharan Blues, and has dug deeply into the folkloric Hausa, Djerma, Peul and Songhai traditions of Niger. Bonga is the descendant of a very rich lineage of Vodou ceremonial drumming and song and has also traveled extensively through Haiti collecting and learning the different manifestations of Haitian song and folklore. Rufus has taken the cello into previously unknown realms and is noted for his collaborations in African, Arabic, and American music forms and also has a solo CD Songs for Cello on the Daqui label. It is with this background that the Roots Quartet has come together to create a sound that although based around the song forms of American traditional music reaches back to a common root that has inspired everyone involved.
The group came into being in 2008 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their label, Daqui Records. Yacouba was appearing with his ground breaking group from Niger, Mamar Kassey, on the same stage as Bethany & Rufus . Yacouba joined the duo on one song, and the rest is the kind of magic chemistry that can never be planned. The following summer the expanded group along with Bonga was invited to perform at Les Nuits Atypiques Festival in France, and it was in the process of rehearsing that the group really came into focus.
While doing a promotional spot on Radio France for Les Nuits Atypiques, the Roots Quartet was invited to perform on the Live a FIP radio series in March 2009, which was recorded and released, to much critical acclaim, as a live CD later that year. Mondomix wrote "A diabolically funky bass is joined by the song of a fulani flute and the cadence of a vodou drum, and the cello bows under an incantation of the ancestors... a revelation of Les Nuits Atypiques Festival of Langon and the the love at first listen of studio 105 of Radio France, the folk duo Bethany & Rufus have transformed themselves into a post-modern quartet for an evening of spellbinding music."
Indeed, the music of the Bethany & Rufus Roots Quartet crosses continents and musical boundaries in a way that goes far beyond "fusion". It is like being inside a living history of folk, rhythm, and blues where the ancestral traditions of both the old world and the new are called upon, and from them a common voice emerges that inspires and enthralls audiences all over the world.