Folk

Širom

Sirom

@ Café Oto (East) 

08.05.18

Whilst discovering more about Širom before I went to see them in East Londons nicest cafe venue (personal opinion), I found that they describe themselves on facebook as Slovenian acoustic folk trance drone avant-garde experimental band. - I figured if they have as much musical inspiration as they do genre describing words, then we’d be in for a a mouth full of music. 

Café Oto is located in East London, cafe by day selling vinyls teas and cakes, and by evening, the small barely raised stage fills and the room transforms into magical musical get away. This time on entering the Oto, seats were being placed out fo the ever growing audience. Looking around, the audience seemed mainly middle aged artistic types, some with small kids tacking naps in their laps, and the odd student here and there. 

I took a seat to the right of the stage and feasted my eyes on the array of musical instruments mapped out on the floor. I see two balafons, African xylophones, I see a ribab, a one stringed lute from Morocco played with a padded bow and traditionally accompanying poets. As well as this, we can see a violin, many forms of percussion, a small kalimba lamellaphone which is a small thumb piano and a few other instruments also. 

The Slovenian trio came to the stage, and in an atmospheric way began the musical journey. For that’s what it was. The trance came over to me in waves, at times during the performance I found myself with my eyes closed in an almost mediative way as the music took ahold of my conscience. 

Notably each movement lasted around the twenty minute mark, certainly not a performance of 4-7 minute songs back to back. During each piece, the members of the group: Iztok Koren, mainly on percussive instruments and banjo, Ana Kravanja rousing on the violin, however playing many other things too and finally, Samo Kutin on the balafons, kalimbas and something that looked somewhere between a DIY-do-it-yourself Kora, and an oversizes gourd bow. Research tells me this is in fact a home-made harp.

The music starts, I notice at first that Iztok is playing the banjo with the bow…(I later noticed we actually had a 4 strings banjo, and a 5 string). At first I wasn’t sure I enjoyed the sound, but once layered and set in its context with the violin and balloon playing, and then slowly a beat, I found myself in awe and embarrassed I had initially doubted the sound. The avant-garde elements were obvious enough, the audio experimentation, the adventurous journeys they were taking us on. This bow came into use in many ways, at some point, a balafon was picked up vertically, and the thin edges of the keys were played with this bow. Again, a strange yet immersive sound. 

Lyrics take a back seat with this experience, the occasional vocal drone from Ana and Samo, we had rhythm sections, at a couple of memorable points, Ana and Samo interlocked their two balafons, both members playing both balafons, the skill was impressive to say the least, furthermore this created such a beautiful sound. Melodies were made from muted strings, sounds were pulled from everything: the slide of a finger on a guitar, beating a rusty bicycle chain cog creating a singing bowl effect, the beat from tapping a banjo face, a shake of a small bell and a whisper directed away from the microphone.

Širom performed a musical experience, with such long pieces it was easy to loose yourself in their trance. Wether it be the ongoing ukulele, or the banjo or violin, as the musicians switched between instruments mid-movement, they did so with such a gracious and smooth transitions keeping the vibe alive throughout. 

Their energy exuded thoughts of nature, running water, the kalimba and the balafons connotated rain-forests for me, I felt that Širom were welcoming me into their imiaginations, into their nature, into the landscapes of Slovenia. It sounded as though each ember had multiple sets of hands and were creating noises that I could barely keep up with. 

Širom formed in 2014 and are signed to Glitterbeat records, their 2017 album ‘I Can be a Clay Snapper’ is available on Spotify, I would personally recommend ‘Boats, Biding, Beware!’. For me the album falls directly into that that can be played on nearly all occasions, be it a dinner party, an intense personal listening session, cycle around the city or relaxing with friends. I

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing Širom at Cafe Oto, I would call it an experience. Although musical, it certainly didn’t feel quite like a normal gig, a gig installation perhaps? There we find our avant-garde. 

Namlo

Namlo @ Balabam  16.03.18  Photo by Sophie Darling

Namlo @ Balabam

16.03.18
Photo by Sophie Darling

Namlo @ Balabam  16.03.18  Photo by Sophie Darling 

Namlo @ Balabam

16.03.18
Photo by Sophie Darling 

16.03.18

Balabam (Tottenham)

I shall keep this review short and sweet as in the past I have already reviewed Namlo. 

Firstly, since my first meeting with the band Namlo over a year ago, they have remained, regardless of the acts I am able to see throughout the year, they remain one of my all time best bands to see in London. 

As one of the only Nepalese bands playing live in London, they are pivotal in keeping the diaspora of Nepalese traditional musics alive. They bring this beautiful music, compromised of a clarinet, playing the part that traditionally Nepali flutes would play,  a selection of percussions including a calabash drum and variety of bells, along with melodic guitar playing, stunning harmonies and lyrics nostalgic of Nepal. 

Since last I saw the band, they have a new percussionist: Gizel a well known Turkish multi-percussionist, and a few new songs nestled in between the classics from their debut album of which was released in 2017 and self titled ‘Namlo’.  Namlo is the name of the strap that holds the head loads Nepalese people carry as they walk through the mountains, the name Namlo represents the traditions and the strength of the Nepali people and their music. 

Balabam is a perfect setting for a Namlo gig. The energy of this reasonably new venue to London is positively beautiful. With Mediterranean style interior, the venue exudes warmth and comfort, along with attracting a friendly and open demographic. The music they showcase is global and inclusive. Namlo set up on the stage with the soft multi coloured walls of reds and yellows, as an inviting backdrop works perfectly together to set the vibe of the evening. 

DJ Ritu and AWIL Team, Sofia and Sophie Darling with Namlo on stage @ Balabam  16.03.18    

DJ Ritu and AWIL Team, Sofia and Sophie Darling with Namlo on stage @ Balabam

16.03.18 

 

As well as this, DJ Ritu, of Londons best ‘world music’ radio programme ‘A World In London’, introduced the band with fantastic respectable descriptions of the musicians and the musical traditions of Nepal. In return, the band were noticeably very grateful to DJ Ritu for her introductions, thanking her profusely a couple of times from the stage during the gig. The repoir and exchanges of respect between the acts was obvious and heart warming. 

The band proceed to play a few of my favourites from their album: Kauda, Yesto Mod, Tamang Selo, and Mountain Groove. As well as this they treated us to some new songs, begging the question of when we can expect a second album! Less than a year since the release of their debut, I personally am already ready for new songs. I enjoyed the new tracks and thoroughly look forward to being able to hear them again.

A few of their songs had the audience dancing, and singing a long with various ‘heys’ and ‘hos’, others more morose melodic songs had members of the audience hugging one another and swaying arm in arm, evening at times people took a seat on the floor to listen to the songs. The slower softer song resonated around the room full of people hanging on their every note such as Rodhi Ghara, a personal favourite of mine, actually truth be told had me teary eyed. 

Namlo have a fantastic ability, I believe, to reach into listeners hearts, unlike hardly any other bands I see…audiences watching Namlo always seem to be emotionally reacting to their music. Pida for example, a sad song dedicated to the people of whom are lost in the mountains in Nepal is played with simply the double bass and a Nepali Tungna lute of which Ganga plays whilst singing. This song in particular had the room alert and listening, many hands on hearts and invested in the lyrics.

It was also nice to notice how the band had evolved, such as the female singer Shreya Rai having grown immensely in confidence, previously being nervous to speak, both Ganga and Shreya are now confident and articulate speakers between songs, often making the audience laugh. 

Overall the evening was beautiful. The music of Namlo can be heard by nearly any demographic, and each person is likely to thoroughly enjoy the music. I have been introducing friends every time I have seen them, and each time, every friend wants to return with more friends. 

Their music is warming, uplifting and also emotional. Balabam is the perfect setting for such an happy and friendly evening. I highly recommend you check out Namlo’s music, get to see them live, and also check out the events at Balabam.