Quilty as charged: I have a soft spot for good “a cappella” performances, or even better, people who can sing extremely well, either classical or popular music. A couple of years ago, I found out that the song done for the Civ 4 game was sung by a Stanford “a cappella” group called ‘Talisman Acapella’. From what I know, or what I can decipher from the online sources, is that the group is actually called Stanford Talisman (official website: warning loud music ahead…) and that, since 1989, every year new students/singers will step in and replace the ones that leave the Stanford University to pursue professional careers. Since the group ‘broke through’1 with the Civ 4 song ‘Baba Yetu’, they’ve slowly moved into publicity maintaining a Facebook group, a YouTube channel, MySpace and a permanent entry on Wikipedia.

For today’s “bridge”, I decided to go for a sample from a live performance of ‘Baba Yetu’ (30+ second sample, or click here to view the performance on YouTube). If you’re familiar with the theme song from Civ 4, the sample above will probably surprise. The performance of the song highlights something trained musicians and singers will recognize: it is well-arranged, carefully accentuated and extremely dynamic. The YouTube video shows this clearly too: notice how the singers collectively (and individually) progress through the song, appropriately falling in and ‘fading out’ at the end. Another excellent demonstration is their performance of the spiritual “Lift every voice and sing’. Music 101.

The only problem I have with a capella is that I somehow associate this with singing spirituals and (generally) religious songs. Additionally, a capella, I find, is only suitable for ‘church’-style situations, i.e., physical locations where there’s a lot of reverb and echo, as opposed to say, intimate settings. However, without a doubt this is excellent material and I hope that the group keeps on going for another couple of decades.

1 ‘broke through’ is between quotes, because the group (of course) frequently changes setup.

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