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Gig reviews 11/03/2017

Namlo + Kadialy Kouyate and Merlyn Driver. 2.3.17 @ Rich Mix. By Sophie Darling

 Rich Mix is renowned for staging some of Londons finest world music evenings, I felt highly anticipated for the evening ahead.  Having not previously heard of the headlining band ‘Namlo’, I was unsure what to expect. My first surprise came upon arrival, seeing the room decked out with chairs. The layout worked well with chairs in the standing area and also nearer the back, the space was warm and welcoming.

 I happily chose a seat a few rows from the front and settled down. To the right of the stage homemade food was available; a Nepalese menu put on by ‘YakBites’, vegan and gluten-free. In the spirit of the evening I treated myself to a ‘platter’ in order to have a small taste of everything. This included ‘Chana Chatpatey’ (puffed rice and vegetables), Pani Puri (pastry balls and potato salad), Shyerpa Salad, Pukka Pakoras (coconut and chickpea fritters, and a special sauce), and finally,  Aloo Achar with Bara (lentil fritters and potato salad). Each segment of the platter tasted delicious with powerful tastes coming from surprising places. YakBites also offers a variety of workshops on how to make the food of Nepal, information for this can be found on their website/Facebook.

 Well fed and ready for some music, hosts Wallee McDonnell and DJ Ritu welcomed in the evening, whilst speaking a little of the forthcoming acts. Walllee is essentially a third of the ‘Celebrate Life’ group that hosts evenings of arts/music and aims to combine the arts with meaningful messages. DJ Ritu is a renowned radio presenter, among a multitude of other things, from ‘A World In London’ which has over 200 episodes and catalogues a who’s who of the world music scene. 

 The first act of the evening was ‘Merlyn Driver’ who is a singer songwriter from the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland, although currently based in London. Merlyn was joined on stage for backing vocals by Anna Merryfield. Although describing growing up in the remote parts of Scotland and his inspiration from Scottish Folk music, Merlyn has a deceivingly British accent. Both sat down, Merlyn started his set. The first song by Merlyn was an original entitled ‘Rain’. With just an acoustic guitar and the odd fluttering vocal harmony from Anna, Merlyn managed to silence a room with his poetic lyrics and sombre guitar. Clearly folk in genre, two of the songs Merlyn played; ‘Rain’ and ‘The Descent’ were tasters from his upcoming EP ‘This is the Corner of a Larger Field’, which will be launched in late May. Merlyn mentioned that the performance was the first time he was hearing his guitar aloud due to using new guitar pick up. The guitar sounded beautiful, being a player myself, I had to ask; the pick up was the ‘L.R Braggs M1 Active’ pick-up (and it sounded fab). Together the two also played a cover of Anais Mitchell's 'Young Man in America’, suiting Merlyns velvety vocals with Anna’s almost harrowingly beautiful harmonies.

The second act followed shortly, however in between acts DJ Ritu treated our ears to some desert blues and Nepalese folk music, ensuring tapping feet continued between acts.

Kadialy Kouyate came alone onto the stage holding the beautiful west African instrument that is the Kora. Kadialy was born into one of the greatest most renowned Griot families in Southern Senegal; the Kouyate family. Kadialy helped to continue the family tradition of music playing and story telling beyond his home, moving to London many years ago to teach and to play the Kora. Having met Kadialy as part of my studies, I already had an idea of his character. Therefore his extremely smooth and charming performance came as no surprise. The audience heard three songs from Kadialy telling stories of the ‘truest’ love and of peace. There would be no mistake of Kadialys superior Kora playing, not only because of the extra 22nd string as apposed to the standard 21, nor because of the high end plug-in adaption on his Kora, but rather for the soulful way in which Kadialy seamlessly played at immense speed, whilst singing deep soft poetic lyrics. Although I failed to understand the language of the lyrics, through the language of music Kadialy became at one with body mind and soul whilst playing through these beautifully intense songs. Kadialy is returning to the Rich Mix after a successful album launch in December 2016 entitled ‘Na Kitabo’ of which can be found on all standard platforms, and also on the 5th of April at Sands Films.

Next up the main act! I had never heard Namlo before and therefore didn’t know what to expect. I could see a huge double bass on stage, amongst a variety of Nepalese percussions stood a wonderful west African drum named the Kalabash. There were also flutes and clarinets and a couple of guitars on stage. All of these wonderful instruments made up the ensemble based around Ganga Thapa. Ganga is the composer of Namlo, and is the creator behind the Nepalese fusion band. Although based in London, it is Ganga's aim to raise the profile of Nepalese music globally.

 ‘Se Se Se’ was the opening track from the Namlo band. I found it had a springily deep funky bass line throughout, a little shocked at this rock’n’roll-esc entrance, the whole audience erupted into an excited applause, kicking off Namlos set with an undeniably high energy. Ganga had put the lyrics and title of each track on screen for all to see. Doing so ensured that the true messages and themes of the songs came across to the audience. A fabulous mixture of up-beat happy songs, and some more mellow serious songs focusing on cultural and sociological issues. A particular favourite of the evening came when Ganga said:

 “Let’s keep laughing and holding on to our memories of love”  which led to some audience participation, with a rhythmic ‘har-har’ laughing segment, everyone was involved. Gangas personality came across incredibly warm and friendly, showing great respect for his fellow musicians, ensuring they had all been introduced and applauded.

 “I’m a little nervous today” Ganga said shortly after opening his set. Nevertheless he needn’t have been for the audience seemed completely enthralled in his completely diverse music. I at one moment found myself smiling longingly at the sweet beauty of a song, and then next completely involved in ‘Mountain Goove’ with groovy rhythms coming from the percussion and bass. Ganga helped to embellish these tracks by fusing sounds from his (apparently new) blues guitar. This mixture of sounds worked so perfectly with one another the evening flew by with a happy ease. 

Ganga said “Through the Music we connect”. From Scotland, to Senegal, Nepal to London, audience and musicians alike certainly connected through the album launch of Namlo.

 

 

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The Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra + Mamak Khadem and Olcay Bayir  28.2.17 @The Forge, Camden, by Sophie Darling.

 Having never before been to the Forge in Camden, I admired the interior; classy wooden walls, high ceilings, intriguing angles and a wall of plants I particularly liked. The stage was set for the opening act; Olcay Bayir and her touring band. Coming from Turkey with Kurdish origins, Olcay mixes the classical Anatolian musical traditions with her western musical training. Coming to the stage it must be noted how wonderfully gracious Olcay Bayir looked, wearing a classy black dress embellished with beautiful jewellery, the audience quickly hushed.

Olcay started her performance by singing an original composition in a wonderful soprano voice, that managed to stretch from the lowest octaves climbing steadily higher and higher until I’m sure she managed to squeeze five different octaves into one song. The drums and the five stringed bass sounded more western influenced driving each song with an almost rock’n’roll sound. This contrasted well with the traditional techniques used playing the acoustic guitar, and the pairing of the Kaval, a traditional flute instrument from Turkey, with the violin, harmonising and together ornamenting around the operatic voice of Olcay.

Olcay Bayir treated us to one or two originals off her new upcoming album. Olcay’s stunning voice echoed through the unusual space connecting to every audience member. The use of the Kaval working with the violin really lifted the Macedonian sounds from her compositions creating a fusion of music that is not only easy to listen too, but also divine with rich textures. Olcay Bayir announced that for her second upcoming album she has launched a crowd funder to help towards the cost, in return she’s offering rewards, plus pre-orders of the album. After 45 minutes of playing Olcay left the stage to be set up for the nine piece all brass balkan orchestra.

 What an entrance they made, coming out section by section layering and building up a real buzz around their first song. After blasting us with some heavy brass talent, without introduction Mamak Khadem joined the boys on stage and together they finished their opening sequence.

 The stunning spiritual voice of Mamak Khadem comes from a fusion of traditional styles embracing cultures from all throughout the middle east. Primarily an Iranian singer, her roots in ancient poetry and traditional Persian music have helped Mamek find common threads throughout the globe, creating continuously innovative music. During their performance together Mamak Khadem and the Dzambo Augusevi Orchestra brought influences from primarily Iran and Macedonia, but also Serbia.  Together they played through a number of Mamaks songs including a particular favourite of mine from the evening; ‘Those Eyes’ of which Mamak had composed specifically for the Orchestra.

The evening was filled with infectious grooves. The playful, upbeat manner in which the Dzambo Agesevi Orchestra perform showcases their rare connection. Within the nine members we have an Uncle named Koko, his brother, and that brothers son; Dzambo.

Dzambo himself joined his uncle in the orchestra as third trumpet at the mere age of 11, and over the next few years became one of the worlds most renowned players shocking and awe inspiring around the globe. “Jumbo 11” is an album by Dzambo, made at the age of 11, after being invited by legendary saxophone player Ferus Mustafov to record. From there Dzambo won every trumpet playing award there was, including in ‘Pehcevo Competition’ ranking as every position possible. From 2006 to  2011 he was unbeatably the fastest trumpet player in the world. He also achieved ‘every trumpet players dream’ of winning the ‘Guca Festival’ for himself and the Orchestra, who were eventually asked to stop contending in order to give others a chance. Uncle Koko is also a legend in his own right. Having played abroad in many projects his virtuosity is recognised everywhere.

 The evening seemed to fly as each song seamlessly grooved into the next. Mama Khadem demanded a complete deserved respect as she powerfully sung with the nine piece brass band. With varying trumpets and horns and a percussion section that consisted of a Rowland Synth pad and a large Tapan drum, not once did Mamak Khadem’s voice fade into the noise. Somehow, the the big brass beats from the Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra worked perfectly in sync Mamak who clearly had a close and warm friendship with the boys. Together they performed one of Mamaks more diverse songs from her first album - ‘Jostojoo, Forever Seeking’ of which Songlines magazine highly acclaimed. The song itself ‘Bigharâr (Restless Yearning)’ asked both the Uncle Koko and Nephew Dzambo to sing with Mamak, consequently the energy of the evening really hit a high with everyone in the audience dancing and applauding.

 Mamak spoke a few times between the songs explaining how she had told the band to learn English, but she will be doing most the speaking as they “didn’t do very well” (queue waves of chuckles from the orchestra). Throughout the evening she told us stories of her life and travels, speaking of her journeys through cultures making all kinds of friends and a families, and told us how the orchestra had become her “favourite family”. The love and appreciation the members had for one another was clear throughout. After every song applauding each other, embracing smiling and laughing.

After an epic finally Mama concluded to the audience that “Music has no boundaries and it is the language of love”. She then left the stage leaving the nine behind to step up the balkan beats for the last segment of the evening.

Here the audience really came alive, seemingly suddenly half Macedonian/Turkish the band launched into Balkan styled patriotic sing along songs. The talent of each members of the band really shone through as they played fast, complicated, elegant pieces and did so, with such an air of ease. Needless to say Dzambo’s trumpet playing shone through as an exceptional talent, frequently shocking and stunning the audience. The horn section themselves were so smooth with the groove I felt if I took my eyes of the band, I could convince myself I could hear a western bass guitar on the stage.

 

With a huge amount of audience singing, the encores seemed they would never end. I spoke to a lady in the audience who had grown up in Macedonia and she said;

 “This music is so nostalgic, it makes me feel like I am home. But not just for me, for Perisan people too, and Iranian, so many people feel at home to this music.”

Although I had grown up in the South of England, I could feel the nostalgia filling the room with admiration for the extremely talented orchestra.

 After the third encore, the band finished with ‘Crazy Dance’ an upbeat original that left both the audience and, it seemed, the band reluctant to leave.

 I had really enjoyed the evening, the electric energy emanating from the stage stayed with me till I was home, trying to sleep.

 Olcay Bayir will be releasing new music soon, you can find more about her crowdfunding project on her Facebook page. Make Khadims albums are available on all platforms, including her brand new album ‘The Road’. The Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra are continuing to travel and play their music globally.

 

 

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A Celebration of Felt Kuti with Bukky Leo & Black Egypt . 27.02.17. Jazz Cafe, London - Sophie Darling

 When buying my ticket previous to this event, the Jazz Cafe website stated: ‘It is very difficult to put into words the significance and stature of an individual like Fela Kuti’, I was dubious as to, if at all,  how well it could be done. Bukky Leo however promised to bring this monumental music to life with the help of the all-star ‘Black Egypt’.

     Having been originally picked up playing saxophone on the streets of Lagos, by drummer legend Tony Allen. Bukky Leo became renowned in the acid jazz scene, playing globally, Lagos to London becoming undoubtedly one of the most important afrobeat musicians alive. Bukky Leo, is a rare musician that has had the honour of playing in ‘Africa 70’ with afrobeat innovator Feta Kuti himself.

    Upon arrival, the Jazz Cafe had set an afro-aesthetic mood, with soft dim lights of yellows and reds. The Dj from ‘Open The Gate’s' Fenomeno started the evening with some easy swaying roots reggae, gradually adding more afro-beats/jazz tunes as the venue packed out. The varying demographic in the audience all looked intent and ready for the night ahead, most of us having missed out on the original date two weeks previous, of which quickly sold out, prompting the addition of a new date.

    With nearly each member of the audience in motion, the band took to the stage, and jumped head first into their set, stopping only after the second song to introduce the stage. Each member receiving a warm welcome, some familiar faces also, such as Kishon Khan on keys, renowned British jazz pianist, composer, arranger and producer. Kishon Khan the previous week had given a seminar in ‘The School of Oriental and African studies’, SOAS, on the rhythmic and melodic foundations of Cuban music, whilst also promoting his position in the Black Egypts. Mark Crown on trumpet has also been seen playing with a variety of pop and reggae artists, most recently touring with rudimental.

    The band played full length songs in tribute to Fela Kuti among some originals from Bukky and the Black Egypts. The energy emanating from the performance clearly engulfed the entire room that seemed almost hypnotised into a dance trance by the music on stage. A personal highlight was Bukky Leo’s rendition of ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’ by Fela. Playing the piece for over nine minutes for me it became nostalgic of every Fela album I’v spent hours listening too. Bukky Leo and the Black Egypts harnessed the magic and talent created by Flea Kuti and managed to bring that magic to the people in the Jazz Cafe that Sunday night.

    Bukky and the Black Egypts played numerous Fela pieces and embellished the whole set with similarly complex and lengthy solos, of which truly gave the brass section of the band their time to shine. With Trevor Edwards on trombone, Mark Crown on the trumpet and of corse Bukky Leo on saxophone, the audience was truly felt elevated to original days of Fela and afrobeat, therefore making the celebration of Kuti a tremendous success. The solos from each member brought the jazz, with the on going groove being carried throughout by Richard Tunde Baker on percussion, Saleem Rahmaan on drums, Phill Dawson on Electric Guitar, and Yeukai CheMin and others on the distinctive chanting backing vocals so easily recognisable with afrobeat and Fela Kuti.

     The endless toe tapping groove came to an end, the band rapped up and finished their set. The enormity of the songs they played that evening echoed around the Jazz Cafe as people applauded until every member had left the stage. Bukky Leo being the first musician I had personally seen that had played in the past with Fela I left the venue feeling honoured and elated.

 

     The most recent collaboration of Bukky Leo and the Black Egypts is their album released in 2012 entitled ‘Anarchy’, one can also refer to the multitudes of work that Fela Kuti left in the world for more afrobeat. Furthermore don’t hesitate to look up the catalogues of each player within the band, as together they cover a multitude of amazing work and fabulous music. 

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Baluji Shrivastav and The Inner Vision Orchestra at Rich Mix, 26/02/2017 by Norman Druker

 Is the sitar the most widely-known non-Western musical instrument in the world?  Other suggestions are welcome, but there is certainly no other multi-stringed instrument which, merely from a few opening notes, can evoke a mood, a continent, a musical culture or even a particular period of time.

 Sitar music can be frequently heard: as an exotic addition to pop music, as a short-cut cliché to late 1960s psychedelia, or even as a travel programme accompaniment.  Sadly, it's heard less often as the backdrop to a whole evening of concert music, and even less so being played by a virtuoso player such as Baluji Shrivastav, as at Rich mix this evening.

 For the first half of the concert Baluji played with Sanju Sahai on tabla, performing a series of ragas.  They both played intuitively, listening and anticipating in a combination of shimmering strings and pulsing beats.  The sitar and tablas interchanged, each directing and following the other, neither taking an obvious lead or competing, but setting questions for the other to answer.  Both Baluji and Sanju are innovative improvisers, working within the structure of the melody, extending it, taking it in unexpected directions, varying the tempo and rhythm, yet always returning to the starting theme.

 The final piece in their set was the old standard, loved by many jazz players, “Autumn Leaves”.  With this recognisable tune, you could see the power of improvisation, the adaptability of the sitar, and the versatility of the imaginative musician playing it.  Baluji's ability and reputation are well recognised and respected, and quite rightly so.

 The evening was organised as the launch of Baluji Shrivastav's latest CD, a best-of compilation from his near-twenty years recording with ARC Music.  The CD also includes two tracks by The Inner Vision Orchestra (IVO), and the second half of the night was their performance.  Baluji was the opening act, and he then gave the second part to them.

 All of the musicians in the IVO are visually impaired, or blind, as is Baluji himself.  The Orchestra is truly international, with the eight musicians hailing from Lebanon, Japan, Iran, Afghanistan, the Indian sub-continent, Nigeria, Central America......  Their music reflects their cultural and national backgrounds, and is played with both Western/non-Western instruments.  Baluji plays sitar and is the musical director, with Sanju Sahai (the only sighted player) on tablas.  They play together beautifully, complementing and supporting their three soulful vocalists (singing songs emanating from Pakistan/Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Lebanon).  Further concerts from them should not be missed – a real treat awaits.

 Baluji's Inner Vision Project has begun a residency at Rich Mix, aimed at encouraging and supporting any blind/partially sighted person to develop their musical skills.  It will be running a series of regular workshops, playing sessions and learning opportunities over the coming months.

 Baluji and Sanju rounded off the evening with some short North Indian pieces featuring our man also playing the dilruba, a smaller multi-stringed and beautifully pitched instrument.  The dilruba translates as “robber of the heart”.  It did.  As did the whole evening.

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MOTHER AFRICA - Peacock Theatre til March 11th, 2017 - Sofia Gaetani Morris

Mother Africa - Khayelitsha is a wonderful two hours of music, dance, acrobatics and tricks that gives a mesmerising taste of life about a township in South Africa. Choreographed by the talented Noluyanda Mqulwana, Clive Madlala and Simone Nene the production is on at the Peacock Theatre, Holborn until March 11th. The pan-African cast includes performers from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa, and is reflected in an eclectic range of music and dance styles. The beautiful set featuring different elements of everyday life and the pulsating beats from the live band (which include Kora) provide a perfect backdrop to the acrobatics, dancing and tricks. The circus element is at the forefront with amazing, hair-raising feats, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats! It was refreshing to see a diverse audience for this show too, a far cry from the usual productions shown in central London theatres. Highly recommend to people of all ages!

 
Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso at Barbican London May 4th, 2016
By Althea Sully Cole
 
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil's triumphant return to the London stage at the Barbican on May 4th was so full of intimacy, grace and humility that one would never know that they remain two of the greatest pioneers of Brazilian popular music. The engagement marked nearly 45 years since their exile to London during the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1970s, yet they still seeme perfectly at home. In button up shirts, black jeans, and matching black sneakers, the two descended onto the stage as if it were their front porch Bahia; Veloso sat with his guitar resting over crossed legs, while Gil used a classical guitar foot stool (unorthoxically under his right foot), with one glass of water and and another of red wine between them.

With more than 40 albums of material, the two 73-year-old artists had a vast repertoire to draw from for this monumental performance. From massively popular hits like "Tropicalia", "Expresso 2222", "Filhos de Gandhi" and "O Leozinho", to more obscure songs like "É De Manha" (written in 1963 by Veloso, this was the oldest composition of the evening) and "As Camélias" (the newest piece, written in collaboration), they breezed through 25 pieces in less than an hour and half, returning for 2 encores, amounting to a composite performance of 30 pieces in two hours. The feel between them, nostalgic for another time, place and circumstance, achieved a sort of unison seldom seen in younger performers, as their two hands wandered over the neck and nylon strings of their respective guitars like choreographed dancers. However, when the performance began to feel too relaxed or nostalgic, Veloso would spice things up with a performative shimmy or 2 step, dancing to the delight of the crowd.

As individuals, Veloso, one of the most romantic voices of our time, exhibited the best of his dextrous and evocative vocal command in classic pieces like "Tonada De Luna Ilena", while Gil displayed his endless creativity in characteristic labyrinths of chord progressions, coming to an impressive zenith in a jazzy interpretation of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds". Together, their effortless vocal harmonies and undulating samba rhythms produced the most romantic atmosphere one could imagine in a room filled with nearly 2,000 people. Indeed, these songs and these performers put their audience at such ease, you can feel couples leaning into one other, holding hands and old friends swaying gently together, shoulder to shoulder. If you are not afforded the rare opportunity to see these two perform, I highly recommend purchasing their new album, "Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música" ("Two Friends, A Century of Music"), and putting it on in your living room with a few friends. This is the most authentic performance.
 
Otava Yo at Rich Mix London Feb 25th, 2016
By Sofia Gaetani-Morris

After an entertaining interview and an incredible live performance with Otava Yo on A World in London, I was excited to see them live at Rich Mix. The six band members who together play everything from pan pipes and handmade bass guitars to bag pipes and the zhaleika have created a unique style of music, combining Russian folk songs with modern beats. This was their first UK tour, and I was interested to see what a London audience’s reaction would be to this quintessentially Russian group.

On arrival, there was a small crowd of people of all ages who clearly didn’t know what to expect. Looking on at the empty stage filled with obscure traditional instruments, a washing line filled with peasant dress and of course their lucky duck Vania, the audience waited in anticipation to see who would fill this already eccentric looking set. At twenty past eight, guitarist Alexey Skosyrev strolled on stage followed by his band mates Alexey Belkin, Dimitry Shikhardin, Yulia Usova, Petr Sergeev and Timur Sigidin dressed in Russian-style attire. After opening with the beautiful song Kamarinskaya a look of delight swept over the audience’s faces; they were clearly relieved that their decision to take a chance on an unknown band had paid off.  The large crowd of Russians looked at home in this setting, joking with the band mates, swigging their beer and singing along to the old folk songs they all knew well. The non-Russians were well looked after by Alexey Belkin, the only English speaker of the band who cracked jokes and explained the meaning of their songs.

The combination of violins, bass guitars, percussion, four fantastic vocals and a great mix of Russian instruments was mesmerising for the eyes and gripping for the ears. A new and wonderful sound was created for each song by using spoons, an IPhone, a large gusli or two mini flutes over the rhythm section. We heard all types of songs, from traditional Christmas songs and lullabies, to pancake songs and love songs about women’s white legs; my personal favourite being the Russian Couplets While Fighting in which Dimitry and Alexey entertained us all by play fighting on stage.

It didn’t take long for the audience to start swinging their hips and bobbing their heads, but by the second half and a few drinks down the line the whole crowd was energetically dancing. Skipping and spinning around the dance floor, Otava Yo’s music brought out dance moves only imaginable in a 19th century small-town Russian setting. A truly wonderful evening, which ended with a room packed with people cheering for an encore! 

 

 Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal at Union Chapel, London, March 3rd, 2016

By Sophie Shackleton

 

Kora legend Ballaké Sissoko and cellist Vincent Segal returned to the UK this week to perform music from their second collaborative album, Musique du Nuit (“Night Music”). At Union Chapel, their performance in London was a beautiful match between venue and artists; the architectural ambiance of the chapel, paired with its casual yet sophisticated approach to hosting audiences, perfectly suited these two quietly ingenious artists, and emphasized the warmth and intricacy of their music and friendship.

 

Ballaké Sissoko has played a significant role in the international renown of the kora, a West African 21-string harp traditionally played by griots. Sissoko and fellow kora superstar Toumani Diabaté grew up side by side in Bamako, Mali, under the tutelage of their fathers, Djelimady Sissoko and Sidiki Diabaté, whose kora collaboration in the 1970s, Cordes Anciennes, brought new instrumental attention to the harp. Both from griot families, the two sons studied with their fathers from an early age, and have now found their own contemporary styles for the instrument. Sissoko has had a quieter career than Diabaté outside of Mali, releasing his first solo album in 2012, but his virtuosity is equal, albeit different.

 

Vincent Segal was also rigorously trained, in a French conservatory, and has similarly sought innovation, from collaborations on trip-hop (bumcello) to extensive study of African musical styles. The two string players released their first album, Chamber Music, in 2009, to wide international acclaim, initially riding on the unexpected pairing of instruments, but ultimately proving their beauty together. Musique du Nuit is more playful; they explore a range of influences from modernism to Brazilian styles, and recorded the album outside, at night, on Sissoko’s roof in Bamako. It was this relaxed camaraderie of musicianship, a deepening since their last work, that shone through last Thursday on stage.

 

Sissoko, unfortunately, was the more silent personality in the room, mostly because he does not speak much English (despite speaking, as Segal points out, more than six languages, including French), but Segal is a wonderfully gracious host, unobtrusively guiding the audience through the context of each piece. He is humble yet funny, and his deep care for both the music and for his friend, and the songs they have created together from Brazil to Bamako, adds depth to their performances. In one of the concert’s highlights, the two performed “Kalata Diata,” a last-minute addition which is actually from Sissoko’s solo album, At Peace; it builds upon the extensive repertoire of music recounting the epic of Sundiata Keita, founder of the Mali Empire. Despite its prolific and contemporary importance, the story can seem like a distant and ancient “tale” to Western audiences – Segal more appropriately likens it to Shakespeare, a delightful parallel, and further notes that its beauty is that it cannot be read, and must instead live through music. His simple yet perfectly-articulated primer helped the piece come alive for the audience.

 

The most profound success of the concert was its focus on the instruments. The selection and order of pieces emphasized the breadth of sounds that can be achieved with the strings. Both Segal and Sissoko, when playing, are facilitators of the music, never overpowering but guiding the sound. They switch between solo and accompaniment seamlessly, improvising throughout the set, and the music of each only emphasizes the beauty of the other. Their softness in presence gives way to the strength and vibrancy of their sounds. Both instruments, in the chapel, were majestic. In the spirit of their album, the performance was one we could have listened to all night.

 

Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal’s Musique du Nuit was released in 2015 by No Format! in France and Six Degrees Records in North America. Their UK tour has wrapped, but they continue to perform throughout Europe this spring – I encourage you to see them live if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rokia Traore @Roundhouse Feb 6th 2016 

Singer songwriter Rokia Traoré performed at Camden's Roundhouse on February 6th and Althea Sullycole was there!

 Although Traoré is of noble Malian Bamana dissent, it is much more accurate to say that her music is the product of an increasingly globalised world, perspective, and set of influences, rather than of Mali. She grew up all over the world, settling temporarily in Algeria, France, Saudi Arabia and Belgium in her youth. She has been released 5 solo albums since 1998 and her current tour is in promotion of her 6th album, “Né So”.

What is perhaps most notable about Traoré's performance is her uncanny ability to make any room, no matter how big or small, into an intimate space. She waits for silence before she begins the solo guitar riff of “Mayé” at the beginning of the show. This focused sound exudes strength and calm, asking the audience to lean into it, like children gathered around a sage storyteller.

When the music really gets going, however, it is the strength of her sharp and reactive ensemble that carries the show. Namely, Bintou Soumbounou singing backing, and sporadically lead, vocals in the powerful jelimuso Bamana style of mali that Traoré sometimes lacks; Moise Ouattara on drum set bringing a rich syncopation that would rival a much larger Malian percussion ensemble; Matthieu N'Guessan performing a very contemporary West African bass style, in the vein of Richard Bona and Habib Faye; Stefano Pilia, an Italian musician, the only one not of West African descent it seems, bringing in cinematic soundscapes with his ethereal guitar style; and, lastly, Mamah Diabaté, a star n'goni player, whose every accent feels perfectly timed and balanced with the rest of the performance.

Apart from a few selections, namely “Koté Don” from her 2004 album Bowmboi, followed by “Mélancholie” from her 2013 album Beautiful Africa and “Zen” from her 2008 album Tchamantché, Traoré performed all new material from her forthcoming album, taking the audience on a politicized acoustic journey through dark, measured introspection to electrified and exuberant celebration. Through it all, however, Traoré remains devotedly on message, speaking candidly about current issues such as the refugee crisis.

Traoré concludes with “Strange Fruit,” an anti-lynching anthem popularized by American jazz singers Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and based upon the poem first published as “Bitter Fruit” by the Jewish American teacher Abel Meeropol. It is hard to believe that the piece could be any more haunting, but Traoré's intimate performance style and worldly voice brings current black issues, once confined to the African-American community overseas, to be relevant to each member of the audience personally, reflecting on the growing awareness and relevancy campaigns such as Black Lives Matter from the States are gaining globally.

 

If you have the chance to see Rokia Traoré live, it is a rare and important opportunity to witness not just an award-winning musician, but also an eloquent poet and powerful activist do her work alongside a virtuosic ensemble. If not, you can still get a hold of her album, “Né So,” out later this month on Nonesuch Records.

 

Vieux Farka Toure @Kings Place London 

 Althea Sullycole reviewed Vieux Farka Toure's show at Kings Place for AWIL on Jan 27th, 2016.

Malian vocalist and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, who has joined us on A World In London on two separate occasions in 2010 and 2015, performed at King's Place near King’s Cross in Central London. Touré has released three studio albums, one live album, and several notable collaborations since 2007.

 Touré sauntered on stage at 8:15 pm or so, donning a traditional mint bou bou and a fedora shading his eyes. He picked up his guitar and dashed into the first two pieces, “Filipa” and “Fafa,” with a particular urgency. His backing musicians, bassist Jean-Alain Hohy and drummer Jean-Paul Melindji, in more contemporary dress but similar visors, followed suit.

 His third song "The World," then launched the audience into the most alt-pop/rock sound of the evening, followed by "Ali," a salute to his father, the late Ali Farka Touré, (pioneer of the desert blues style of northeastern Mali), with a more African feel.

 After one more song, “Jakhal” and a twenty minute intermission, it became clear that Touré had saved much of his energy for the second set. Indeed, “Waliadu,” a cover of his father’s most iconic tune, was certainly the crowd favourite of the evening. The modern Malian traditional "Jarabi" that followed, reinvigorated by one of Touré's most creative and harmonic solos of the concert, was certainly a high point. By the end of the tune, Touré's voice relaxed into an earthy, sonorous unison with his guitar--a welcome moment of meditation in an otherwise hasty performance.

 To conclude, Touré delivered a few dance tunes, leaving his backing musicians room to build upon dynamics and even do a bit of soloing, though the spotlight remained consistently on Touré. The final few notes ended abruptly, evidently in expectation of an encore.

 There is no doubt that Touré is a seasoned performer and virtuosic guitarist with a powerful command of his audience and a seemingly infinite well of creativity at his roots, which is why I couldn't help but wonder why Touré didn’t seem to be exerting much energy into his performance. Was it the intimate, seated venue, which, compared to the hipster underground dance club stages Touré graces in Mali, lacks some sort of electricity? Maybe the odd twenty minutes between sets stunting the momentum? Perhaps it is that Touré lacks a bit of the patience, charisma and feel of the dessert blues sound without straying too far away from it outside of collaborations with other artists. Or maybe it is that audiences are witnessing Touré evolve a way to stay within the genre his fans expect to hear while also distinguishing himself from his family lineage. Whatever the reason, and however it may read, Touré remains a dynamic and dextruous artist worth watching.

 

Trio Da Kali and the Epic of Sundiata

Sofia Gaetani-Morris reviewed Trio Da Kali in concert at The British Library for AWIL on Jan 22nd, 2016.

Trio Da Kali:  Vox - Hawa Kasse Mady Diabaté.  Bass ngoni - Mamadou Kouyaté.  Balafon - Lassana Diabaté. Listen to their live radio session on A World in London by clicking here: https://www.mixcloud.com/SOASradio/awil-169/

Trio da Kali from Mali played an hour of incredible traditional griot songs as part of the ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ exhibition at the British library. Arriving in the dull conference room of the British library was disappointing, however the room soon filled with an excited and diverse crowd eager to hear this group which is hailed as the new generation of griot talent. The room lit up as soon as Hawa Kasse Mady Diabaté, Mamadou Kouyaté and Lassana Diabaté entered on stage in their reflective, metallic and sparkling outfits. The audience was quickly silenced by the soaring vocals of Hawa’s voice which echoed through the room astonishing everyone. But as soon as the bass ngoni and the balafon started the atmosphere lightened, the pace quickened and the crowd bobbed their heads & clapped their hands in time with the rhythms.

 I was entranced by the trio throughout the performance – punctuated by speedy, smooth ensembles and energetic solos by each artist. The night ended perfectly with the re telling of the ‘Epic of Sundiata’, sung by Trio da Kali and translated by Cherif Keita. Through the song with the help of Cherif Keita, the trio explained the history of the Mande griots and their importance to Malian culture, giving an essential historical background to the music, unknown to many in the audience.

 

 
Miguel Poveda at Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells. March 4th, 2014. By Luna Silva.

Miguel Poveda is certainly one of the most popular flamenco singers of our time. He is known for being innovative with flamenco as well as being a key figure in pursuing the rich traditions of the genre. As part of the world famous Sadler's Wells Flamenco Festival, Poveda performed a wide variety of "palos" (styles) from the rarely played "Liviana" to the well-known "Buleria". The cries and cheers that greeted him were immense and throughout the performance people were shouting praises at him. A women behind me, shouted out for all to hear: "Que bien cantas hijo !" ( "how well you sing my son !"). The instrumentation was simple, two palmeros (clapping) and a guitarrist, leaving all the space necessary for each musicians to shine. In terms of the percussion, we didn't hear the popular cajon, but two tables. This was an effective and creative idea in which tables became the percussion as they would have been in a bar. Miguel Poveda has extraordinary skill and control of his voice, having performed since he was fifteen, he knows how to take his public on a journey. Behind this great figure however, one senses his humbleness as one of the first things he did was pay hommage to the late, genius guitarrist, Paco de Lucia. He was accompanied in dancing by the raunchy dancer: "La Lupi". This was a complete show, a complete journey and a perfect reflection of the quality performances Sadler's Wells has to offer.

Clara Sanabras @ Cecil Sharp House Nov 21st 2013

 To the colour of her baroque guitar and harmonium, Clara takes her public on a journey through time and space. This may fall into the category of “cheesiest line you have ever heard”; but in Clara's case this is true.

 Her new album « Scattered Flight » features songs about Spanish exile: Sephardic Jews in the 15th Century, the exodus that followed the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and now the current economic flight to escape poverty & Eurozone crisis. Hailing from Barcelona, Clara Sanabras is a diasporic talent flourishing in London. With great sensibility, power and variation, Clara unravels musical surprises one after the other. Her beautiful voice sways between heavy ornamentation and floating notes. The public was most definitely in the palm of her hand last Thursday at Cecil Sharp House (part of Sam Lee's “Folk Rising”). All were entranced as she guided them through the stories and lives of past souls which, to my knowledge, have not been given such a clear voice before.

 Having acquired many experiences in various musical projects, in this album, Sanabras finds a particular coherence which could prove to be a milestone in her already successful career.

 

 Luna Silva--www.lunar-e-views

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Rainlore Feature on:

 Liz Liew & Yuyu Rau - Snapshots

 At Bedford Fringe Festival

South Bank Arts Centre

Bedford

Friday 26th July 2013

 Liz Liew - composer, keyboard, violin, vocals

Yuyu Rau - choreographer, dancer

Dennis Kwong Thye Lee - guzheng (Chinese zither), xiao (Chinese flute)

 

Special Feature: Liz Liew & Yuyu Rau's Snapshots, At Bedford Fringe Festival, South Bank Arts Centre, Bedford, Friday 26th July 2013 (2013/08/05)

 Snapshots PLUS

 Liz Liew and Yuyu Rau's Snapshots is a personal exploration of key moments in composer Liew's life and the emotions involved, with dancer Rau interpreting these various 'snapshots' through a skillful and elegant combination of Chinese classical and modern dance and martial arts. In addition, at various points visual 'snapshots' are also projected onto the background. Snapshots' premiere has already been reviewed here, but since then the show has been redeveloped to some extent.

 The programme at the Bedford Fringe was split into two parts, with the actual performance being preceded by short introductions to the principles of Chinese Classical Dance including finger gestures, curving of the body, posture and breathing techniques, with an aural and visual introduction to her performance of a short traditional Chinese dance by Taiwanese choreographer/dancer Yuyu Rau, and to the Chinese instruments used in the performance and their music by Chinese musician Dennis Kwong Thye Lee.

 Using poetry and stories, Lee introduces audiences to the ethereal sound of the xiao (a vertically played Chinese bamboo flute) and the almost otherworldly sound of the guzheng (one of a family of long board zithers, with its typically 18 strings bridged) and performs traditional music on both instruments.

 These introductions are surely an excellent idea and will no doubt be a great help to anybody without knowledge of Chinese dance, music and instruments to develop at least some basic understanding of these highly developed arts.

Sadly, Chinese culture in general and Chinese musical and dance culture in particular still suffer from a certain degree of underexposure in Britain on the one hand, while on the other the widespread myth in the West of the 'inaccessibility' and 'strangeness' of Chinese music (and dance) still persists to a large extent. And yet, Chinese classical and Western classical music are actually much closer to each other than for example Western and the relatively widely popular Hindustani classical music.

 

These introductions should, it is to be hoped, go some way to dispelling such cultural prejudices and myths and opening the Western ear and eye, and mind, to these beautiful and highly sophisticated traditions. Most of all, they will no doubt make the performance of Snapshots much more easily approachable to the typical British audience, further aided by a concluding short Q&A session with Rau, Lee and Liew.

 The second half is the actual performance of Snapshots. This is a personal exploration of key moments in composer Liz Chi Yen Liew's life and the emotions involved - childhood, first love, bereavement and child birth - through her compositions, an elegant, organic blend of Chinese and Western classical as well as contemporary elements utilising a combination of Western (piano and violin) and Chinese (guzheng and xiao) instruments.

 Liew's score is outstanding and highly evocative. It is cinematic in character and partly reminds of composers such as Ravel or Debussy, but Chinese versions thereof.

 Dancer Yuyu Rau interprets these various 'snapshots' through a skillful and elegant blend of Chinese classical and modern dance and martial arts. In addition, at various points visual 'snapshots' are also projected onto the background.

 The sheer fluidity, energy and elegance of the dance movements is as gripping as the musical score. Indeed, choreography and music are a perfect match that will easily hold the attention throughout.

 Snapshots is a riveting experience full of high energy and elegance that cannot fail to impress as well as move.

 The Bedford Fringe showcase of this collaboration between British Chinese composer Liew and Taiwanese dancer Rau was part of preparations for a nationwide tour in 2014. Something to look forward to then!

© 2013 Rainlore's World/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

 Links:

 http://www.rainloresworldofmusic.net/

 http://rainloresworldofmusic.net/Reviews/Revws_L-R/Liew_Liz_Rau_Yuyu-Snapshots_EtAl-ThePlace20130112.html

 http://www.lizchiyenliew.com

 

 

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Terryazoome

 The Great Northern Railway Tavern

67 High St, Hornsey, London N8 7QB

Wednesday 3rd July 2013, 8pm

 

 

Feat.

Terryazoome:

 Terry Hunt - bouzouki, guitar, compositions

Diane McLoughlin - soprano & tenor saxes

Angelos Georgakis - bouzouki, vocals

Alison Rayner - electric bass

Winston Clifford - drums, vocals