A brief note on "What is the What?": The title which can give some readers cause for a bit of head scratching comes from a Dinka creation myth told within the pages of the book. Now, I am not ruining anything for you here, so I will relate the cliff notes version of the myth to you. When god created the first man and woman, who were bigger and more beautiful than anything else in creation, he gave them a choice: They can take the gift of cattle, something with which they could knowingly prosper and thrive, a source of nourishment in many different ways, or they can take the What. What is the What you ask? The What is a mystery from god, something he cannot tell the man what it is unless he chooses it. After deliberating, intruigued by the possibility that the What might offer, the beautiful man and woman ultimately settle on taking the cattle, seeing it as the sensible choice for the prosperity of all future generations. The man and woman have chosen wisely, as the What is nothing, a test of their willingness to sacrifice the mysteries of god for the sustinance and longevity of their people. Having made the right decision, the man and woman go off with their cattle to create their new civilization.
Ok, so now you know what the What is, and we can move on. Thursday, a duo came to San Francisco to entertain us with their musical virtuosity. I am speaking, of course, of Rodrigo y Gabriela, the guitar duo from Mexico by way of Dublin, Ireland. Yes, that Dublin, Ireland. I should start by saying that they are not just your average guitar duo, playing old Bossa Nova or Flamenco standards for a new audience. The two started off in Mexico as a part of a Thrash Metal band, covering bands such as Sepultura, Pantera, and of course Metallica. After that endevor failed, they packed up and moved to Ireland, which is where they further developed their sound and also where they learned English. (The mixture makes for a very interesting accent.) R y G play a mixture of traditional sounding guitar pieces mixed with their love for American Heavy Metal, and the results are astounding. I can honestly say that I have never in my life seen anyone's hands move that fast.
Playing with no hard and fast set list, they played whatever came to mind, only a few of which came from their album. Gabriela, with her lightning fast finger strumming, provided the rythem and even the percussion while Rodrigo sold the melody with the fastest finger picking this amateur guitarist has ever witnessed. They even got the whole audience singing when they pulled out a rendition of "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. (It should be mentioned, I suppose, that they do not sing. At all. Which isn't to be considered a bad thing; the guitars sing for them.)
The highlight of the show was watching them play their version of "Stairway to Heaven" followed by their lone radio hit, "Tamacun". To hear these songs on their album is amazing enough, but to see them do what they do live almost stopped my heart. So here is the bottom line. Go and see Rodrigo y Gabriela. No, first, go buy their album, then go see Rodrigo y Gabriela. Any chance you can possibly get to see this amazing duo perform their craft will change you forever. And as a matter of fact, you may get your chance soon as they should be stopping back through San Francisco in late summer at the end of their tour. Happy Listening.