Orchestra Gold is driven by a mission to share Mali’s ancient musical treasures with the West. Musically, they are influenced by the 1960’s era Big-Band sound, the creative Golden Era which saw the first wave of reinterpretation of old folkloric music. Socially, they are driven a vision for a more equitable society, and a world where the music that hits the hardest can reach those who need it the most. Through a variety of additional activities such as dance workshops and classes for youth, Orchestra Gold strives to expose oldstyle art forms of this era not just to the broad audience at large but specifically to segments of the population (poor, under-resourced) that could most benefit from it.
The story of Orchestra Gold spans time and space, beginning as the seed of collaboration between Malian dancer/singer Mariam Diakité and Californian multi-instrumentalist Erich Huffaker. They first met in 2006 at a wedding, through djembe master Matché Kassim Traore. Their partnership developed as they began the boundary-defying work of identifying and reinterpreting ancient folkloric music that is seldom heard in its authentic entirety even today among younger Malian musicians. The initial partnership of Mariam and Erich is supplanted by a crew deeply representative of the Bay Area’s afrocentric music scene.
Sonically, Orchestra Gold is influenced by the Golden era of Malian music, utilizing western instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums) to reinterpret oldschool authentic folkloric music. Drawing from other disparate elements of the 60’s and 70’s such as afrofunk, groove-oriented classic rock and psychedelia, the oldstyle sound they promote prioritizes gritty, analog production, and a stripped-down approach to songwriting.
The handle, “Orchestra Gold”, has a dual meaning. On one hand, it pays homage to the celebrated style of big band music developed during Mali’s post-independence golden era 1960’s-1970’s. On a deeper level, the name reflects the fact that although Sub-Saharan West Africa (especially Mali) is well-endowed with the prized element gold, its true source of value is not its material resources, but its music.