Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Folk Music transformed, with 5-string cello

Rufus Cappadocio and Bethany Yarrow play "If I Had My Way" at the Great Green American Fest, July 14, 2007

I was a big fan of Peter, Paul, and Mary, especially their gospel/folk/dark sound. Some of their songs are still inhabiting my head, lo these many years later.

So, in the course of my amblings through YouTube, I was excited to come across Bethany and Rufus, a vocalist/cellist duo giving new life to old Peter, Paul and Mary standards. It turns out Bethany is Bethany Yarrow, daughter of Peter Yarrow, and Rufus is Rufus Cappadocia, "one of the leading voices in cello today," though he had thus far escaped my notice. He started Suzuki cello at the age of three, learning to play by ear, and followed the classical path until he was 18 or 20, and decided he needed to play his own music (by ear), a mix of jazz, rock, blues, folk, and world music (and classical), a mix I tend to be fond of.

Rufus plays on an electric five-string cello of his own design, which he calls a bass cello because the fifth string is a low F. He doesn't use flashy electronic techniques; I think the "electric" part is mostly for amplification. See below for a quote from a review of the duo, and more on Rufus' website about the cello.

Bethany and Rufus have a music video, 900 miles. It is not the best one to showcase the cello, which Rufus sometimes plays lying down (they would have appreciated that at Scottish music camp), but I like it for the quality of Bethany's voice and because it is well-produced, not a shakily-photographed concert performance.

Another YouTube video, He Has a Long Chain On, features Peter Yarrow, and there are several more.

To see more of Rufus, see his website.

Also of interest: the Bethany and Rufus web site.

More on Bethany and Rufus from their website:

This fresh approach to folk music also brought rave reviews to Rock Island, the CD that Bethany released in 2003 under her own name. Rock Island featured the traditional slave lullabies and prison songs that lie at the core of the American musical vernacular, yet re-imagined, she says, as "a kind of electronic pop that I called deep folk music." Blending an edgy contemporary style with banjos, dulcimers, harmonicas, slide guitars, gospel choirs, and some sampled voices of the great blues singers, Bethany charted a unique musical terrain that she and Rufus continue to explore in ways far outside of any conventional music box.

Rufus Cappadocia is one of the leading voices on the cello today. He has toured throughout the Americas and Europe with numerous groups and is known for his collaborations with artists from all over the world... from the Balkans to the Caribbean, from West Africa to North America. He has toured extensively with Urban Tap and The Paradox Trio; has just finished a recording with Badal Roy (who played tabla with Miles Davis) and Barney Mcall (who plays piano with Gary Bartz); and has just finished recording a new project, Voudou Drums of Haiti with “Bonga” Jean-Baptiste as well as a CD of unaccompanied solo cello. After years of experimentation, Rufus plays a self-designed five string electric cello that extends the bass range of the cello and through amplification expands the tonal possibilities of the instrument.

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