A number of times during his performance Thursday at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Mauritanian-bred singer-guitarist Daby Toure implored the audience to stand up, move around or make noise. Such pleas are not unusual when African musicians perform in American venues but were unexpected coming from Toure, whose 2004 debut, "Diam," features gentle melodies and rippling guitar. It's not a stand up, move around or make noise album.
Toure recorded "Diam" almost entirely solo, emphasizing his guitar and high, sweet tenor, and multi-tracking most of the other instruments. Onstage he was accompanied by a bassist and two percussionists, whose presence changed the character of the music: Such serene tunes as "Mi Wawa" were given a more vigorous workout and were interspersed with rollicking Afro-Cuban drum breaks. During these passages, all three backup musicians frequently played percussion instruments while Toure slapped out the beat on his guitar.
These asides tended to take over the songs, overwhelming the appeal of Toure's lilting music. On its own rhythm-oriented terms, however, the group's performance was engaging and exuberant. Toure certainly seemed to be having a good time, performing for almost 15 minutes past the Millennium Stage's 7 p.m. curfew -- and several minutes after the management sent him a message by turning on the house lights.
-- Mark Jenkins