Last Dance

Reflecting back on a magical moment in the sun, our traveling music scribe shares the bittersweet emotions of Baaba Sethís farewell show

by Lee Abraham

Nothing cooler than experiencing a great new band for the first time. Especially when itís unexpected. You know the feeling. Preoccupied and otherwise engaged in more titillating social activity, the music slowly starts to tickle the pleasure center of your mind with an audio goose feather. It feels good. Soon, you are -really- paying attention to a group youíve never heard of. And before the show is over, youíre in love with their music.

On the flipside, thereís nothing new about bands breaking up. Happens all the time. But when itís a band youíve shared memorable experiences with, particularly one of those rare, love-at-first-listen sort of deals, the breakup means more than just another bunch of goofy musicians deciding to pack it in. Itís the end of a relationship. And it hurts.

First time I crossed paths with Baaba Seth was a couple of years ago. They were one of many bands performing on a sweltering summer afternoon at the All Good Festival in Brandywine, Maryland. If it were a battle of the bands contest, Baaba Seth would have won. They blew me away!

It was -really- hot that day. Muggy too. And Baaba was opening the show. So when they started laying down their torrid, world soul grooves somewhere around the noon hour, the area directly in front of the stage was empty. Absolutely nobody there. Didnít matter. By the time Baaba was done, there were a couple hundred people shaking their bones with abandon to their Afro-Cuban beats and irie rhythms. Including yours truly.

I could tell right away that there was something special about Baaba Seth. Sure, their music was great, but it was their passion and spirit that got me out of the cool shade and under the hot sun to dance and sweat like crazy. Correction. It was -Hope Clayburnís- passion and spirit that spoke to me first. Coltraneís soul sister on sax, Clayborn pranced around the stage with an infectious, unbridled exuberance. If she wasnít playing, she was singing or dancing. And smiling -so much- it was all you could do to smile just watching her.

Although a bit less animated, lead vocalist Dirk Lind, the bandís founder, rhythm guitarist, and primary songwriter, is equally compelling. Lindís got one of those distinctive, gravel and velvet voices. Lots-o-tone and texture. Heís also a deeply spiritual type of guy. Eyes closed, brow furrowed in concentration, Lind is an intense and emotional singer. Crafty lyricist too. Heís got a knack for turning serious, reality based themes of human rights and social commentary into thoroughly enjoyable melodies. Heavy message, groovy delivery.

OK, thatís the setup. By now you get the point - Baaba Seth rocked my world. Emphasis on the past tense. You guessed it. Itís over baby, Baaba broke up. But it didnít happen over night. Before going their separate ways, the band did a final string of shows to finish out their commitments and bid their loyal fans farewell. As it turned out, I was fortunate to catch one of those last shows recently at a longtime Baaba stronghold, Peasants Cafe, in Greenville, North Carolina.

So there I was. Happy to be there, but not really happy. And it wasnít just me. There was a weird buzz in the room. Lots of other folks sensed it too. Thatís not to say there wasnít a party goiní on. There was. Plenty of drinkiní, danciní, and misc. frolicking all night long. But there was also an underlying sadness in the air. Much more than just a good time party band, many of the people at Peasants had become friends with the band members over the years. Seems like -everybody- at Peasants that night had an emotional investment in Baaba Sethís music.

In the end, after the band cleared the stage, the house lights came up and the crowd slowly filed out into the night. It was over. Going forward, Baaba Sethís music will continue to live on through its two excellent CDís. Bootleg concert tapes too. And then thereís the memories of its fans. Including at least one danciní fool who unexpectedly fell in love with their music on a hot summer day, not too long ago.