The Rich Mix
The 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 Gangas 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.