Bouterse creates Southern harmony
Posted March 30, 2007

Amid guitars, banjos, drums and many other instruments musician Curt Bouterse took his seat at Claremont’s Folk Music Center Saturday night at 7:30.

The performance highlighted his skills on the banjo and also showed his musical genius in songwriting and playing various other instruments from different cultures, mostly southeast Asia.

The Folk Music Center, despite having an official title, is really a store where peace loving, world music listeners gather and greatly enjoy themselves.

The store offers buttons, stickers and posters protesting the war and other controversial issues, as well as musical instruments of every size, color and style from around the world.

When a performance is scheduled, the back of the store is cleared out and chairs are unfolded.

Coupled with this setting, Bouterse’s music took listeners beyond downtown Claremont and into a rich story of culture, class and Southern lifestyles.

In his moccasins and glasses, Bouterse took the stage in front of an older audience of about 55 people.

The crowd varied in style from conservative grandparents to hippie bohemian seniors to gentry folk of the Southern class.

After a brief introduction by a store worker, Bouterse played his first piece, a country song.

It was amazing to hear such a Southern tune come from the mouth organ Bouterse played.

The instrument did not look like a traditional American instrument.

It was an odd, funny-looking object.

After the song, he explained the organ was from southeast Asia.

“It’s from the southern mountains, just not our southern mountains,” Bouterse said.

In his next piece, Bouterse played the banjo, for which he is best known.

The song had the twang, rattle and roll that defines Southern bayou music.

The store fell away and it felt as if the concert was being held on a riverboat floating down the Mississippi.

One could almost feel the green swampy water, the tall thin trees, the great white birds and the thick Southern heat.

When Bouterse finished this piece, he once again gave a brief history of the instrument and the music he played.

Bouterse continued to play piece after piece, using strange foreign instruments to elicit that deep, distinctively Southern sound.

He played his music and then slowly told a tale about each piece.

Using his hands to illustrate the intricacies of each instrument, Bouterse made the audience feel comfortable.

When an audience member made a comment or asked a question about Bouterse’s music or instruments, he was more than happy to give a thorough and detailed response.

Throughout the rest of the set, Bouterse played several instruments, illustrating his astounding talents on each one.

He could play all of them incredibly well and sing along at the same time.

Bouterse’s musical skill covered various styles of dulcimers, banjos and jaw harps.

Each instrument had a distinct sound that might have sounded Oriental or Irish if Bouterse had not played the music to fit the old Southern style he created.

At one point he played a spiritual song and the audience sang along.

The chorus “Give me that old time religion” echoed through the store as a dreamy hymn, taking people back to the days of quiet Southern churches.

Bouterse just released his first CD, “Down the Road I’ll Go: Fretless Old-Time Music.”

Bouterse has degrees in anthropology, history, musicology and art history, along with a doctoral degree from the University of Maryland in

He is currently working on a book about the oral and literate aspects of medieval Spanish music.

He has been a performer at the San Diego Folk Festival every year since it began in 1967.

His contributions to keeping the art of folk music alive have spanned the last 50 years.

For more information about Bouterse and his authentic southern sound, visit

For more information about the Claremont Folk Music Center and upcoming shows, call (909) 624-2928 or visit

Lilia Cabello can be reached at

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