Twenty years ago, Harry Belafonte rolled to international fame on the crest of the calypso craze. Appearing last night at Constitution Hall in a benefit concert for TransAfrica, he demonstrated the powers of voice and personality that first captured the popular imagination, while spicing his earlier style with exotic Arfican elements.
The years have been kind to Belafonte. Dressed in a black velvet vest, black pants and the trademark white shirt, coyly unbuttoned, he struck a lean and youthful pose. His voice (which is deep and husky when he speaks) is still as smooth and rich as it once was and he handles slow ballads and bright rhythmic numbers with equal ease.
Belafonte's material has changed somewhat to fit the times. While he included a few of the mandatory calypso tunes, his music now encompasses a wealth of black musical styles with touches of jazz blues, African as well as Caribbean music. His show which were a careful blending of electronic and ethnic instruments and the eight-member chorus which accompanied him, sang, danced and played percussion in a sprightly staged show.
Harry Belafonte weathered the rise and demise of the banana boat era and has emerged as a truly distinctive entertainer of various musical styles.