Yasmin Williams with Forest Sun
Fri Jun 30 2023 at 09:00 pm
Sweetwater Music Hall | Kentfield, CA
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Yasmin Williams sits on her leather couch, her guitar stretched across her lap horizontally withits strings turned to the sky. She taps on the fretboard with her left hand as her right handplucks a kalimba placed on the guitar’s body. Her feet, clad in tap shoes, keep rhythm on amic’d wooden board placed under her. Even with all limbs in play, it’s mind boggling that themelodic and percussive sounds that emerge are made by just one musician, playing in real time.With her ambidextrous and pedidextrous,multi-instrumental techniques of her own makingand influences ranging from video games to West African griotssubverting the predominantlywhite male canon of fingerstyle guitar, Yasmin Williams is truly a guitarist for the new century.So too is her stunning sophomore release,Urban Driftwood,an album for and of these times.Though the record is instrumental, its songs follow a narrative arc of 2020,illustrating both apersonal journey and a national reckoning, through Williams’ evocative, lyrical compositions.A native of northern Virginia, Williams, now 24, began playing electric guitar in 8th grade, aftershe beat the video gameGuitar Hero 2on expert level. Initially inspired by Jimi Hendrix andother shredders she was familiar with through the game, she quickly moved on to acousticguitar, finding that it allowed her to combine fingerstyle techniques with the lap-tapping shehad developed throughGuitar Hero, as well as perform as a solo artist. By 10th grade, she hadreleased an EP of songs of herown composition. Deriving no lineage from “American primitive”and rejecting the problematic connotations of the term, Williams’ influences include thesmooth jazz and RB she listened to growing up, Hendrix and Nirvana, go-go and hip-hop. Herlove for the band Earth, Wind and Fire prompted her to incorporate the kalimba into hersongwriting, and more recently, she’s drawn inspiration from other Black women guitarists suchas Elizabeth Cotten, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Algia Mae Hinton. OnUrban Driftwood, Williamsreferences the music of West African griots through the inclusion of kora (which she recentlylearned) and by featuring the hand drumming of 150th generation djeli of the Kouyate family,Amadou Kouyate, on the title track.Since its release inJanuary 2021,Urban Driftwoodhas been praised by numerous publicationssuch asPitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Wasington Post, NPR Music, No Depression, PasteMagazine, and many others.
Where is it happening?Sweetwater Music Hall, Kentfield, United States
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