Review

Childish Gambino - O2 March 2019

Before you read this review of one of Childish Gambino’s final performances, I highly recommend you read my critical analysis of Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ to really understand the political context of the proceeding event.


A solid 9/10

“This is a spiritual place, this is our church… I don’t wanna see any phones, we are here, in the moment.”

Church of Gambino indeed, as the 35 year old took to the sold out ‘busiest music venue in the world’ in the O2 London, Greenwich, an intriguing light show beams across the length of the second largest stadium in the UK, to a dark sheet covering the entirety of the stage - all to climax at the dropping of the sheet to reveal Gambino perched on an extended walk way piercing through the silent arena with a gospel-esc scream accompanied solely by a roaring church organ. 

The feeling quickly turned to anticipation, the audience were about to be apart of something, and as he reminded the eager crowd that this is destined to be the last tour of Donald Glovers alter ego: hip-hop funk soul star Childish Gambino - he then welcomed us to his spiritual church, humby thanking every single person in attendance stated he will “love you forever” claiming he could never have believed he’d play in the O2.

Gambino played through his classics, not missing a single note even in his fast flowing trap, and high note bending gospel esc tunes. He treated the crowd to the favourites: ‘Boogieman’ had everyone dancing, no seat remained sat in. Together we traveled through the various energies of Gambino, from the understated funk of ‘Summertime Magic’, to the atmospheric soundscapes of  tracks like ‘1.The Worst Guys’ and ’11. Worldstar’, to the low-fi rhythms in ‘Late Night in Kauai’. To the new soul funk of tracks from latest album ‘Awake My Love’. 

Furthermore, Gambino hailed his disciples by joining them in the crowd during his performance, and silencing the entire arena during an a cappella in which he showed of his falsetto skills, and appeared to be in awe at surrounding himself by the the crowd - who in turn, were completely mesmerised and awe struck back. ‘Sober’ that had an audience led chorus singing throughout.

The highly anticipated ‘This Is America’ appropriately was the finale before the en-chore, during which the dancers performed the famous dance choreographed by Sherrie Silver. Gambino did not hold back in his subtle political hints the type characterised by this monuments video. He apologised for Trump, and gave his condolences for Brexit whilst encouraging communal friendship and sharing a ‘smoke’.

I felt as though I were a disciple, since his ‘This Is America’ Glover must be (in my opinion) understood as something like a revolutionary. In his every move, he hints at his disappointment in the American and Global race war. His unkept will beard for one, perhaps signifying the ‘unkept wild’ Blackman in America, alongside his decision to adorn a bare chest throughout - taking that rural image of the African American and instead wearing both as proud beacons of his heritage. All very primal and rural imagery, re-appropriated in a capitalist setting of the large concert arena. 

In the same way he wears the trousers representative of colonial oppression from the video, and danced distorted throughout echoing imagery of the racist characterisation of black people in the states ‘Jim Crow’ whilst also re-appropriating the imagery by mixing elements of political music pioneer Fela Kuti - and taking the style completely for his own. 

His dancing throughout was incredible to watch, whilst the large moveable light screens behind created fascinating visuals.  He also took the time to thank all his musicians individually of which, over half were women including all soloists. 

 

He also treated the crowd to a new song, promised to be out soon, nevertheless before the ending of Childish Gambino. 

After the en-chore, Gambino returned to finish the show with his soul/funk classic ‘Redbone’ which saw the crowd literally emotionally go wild.

Gambino is more than perhaps one of the best entertainers, he has taken his platform perhaps more ‘real’ than most, speaking out and up for political causes and mis-treatment socially commenting on previously taboo topics. A man of this calibre doesn’t come around often: a writer, director, actor, comedian, producer, performer and more-over all the above: an activist. 


His flow’s, raps, drops and beats are varied and nostalgic. All in all I give his show a solid 9/10. 

Imarhan

imarhan
Imarhan

22.03.17

Rough Trade (East)

Thursday night saw a special event for Tuareg music lovers, Imarhan, having been hailed the torch bearers for a new generation of Tuareg musicians, bring their mix of traditional Tuareg music, mixed with a little funk and a little disco to East Londons Rough Trade record store. 

A warm up show to their sold out headlining gig at the Moth Club Friday, Rough Trade played host to the desert blues band who had travelled all the way from Tamanrasset,, the Southern Algerian part of the Sahara desert that covers much of North Africa.

Tuareg music is a phenomena hailing from the Sahara Desert, specifically Northern Mali. It is blues music played on electric guitar (noticeably often Gibsons), with cyclical riffs and traditional percussion such as hand clapping and a calabash drum and djembes. The lyrics are sung in Tamasheq, the language of the Tuaregs and often depict the struggle of the nomadic Tuaregs, and their fight for autonomy, as well as lyrically standing in solidarity with their social and geographical struggles. The first band to break out of Northern Africa and into the global scene was genre pioneers Tinariwen, who have been since touring the world popularising the Tuareg music in world music scenes globally. Now Tuareg musicians are passionately saught out for festivals the world over. 

In 2016 Imarhan released their debut self-titled album on ‘City Slang’ label. Their debut flagged the band as Tuareg band to watch, taking the traditional musicality of Tuareg genre, and adding contemporary flourishes. Such tunes as Tahabort stood out as having particularly groovy riffs on top of all the ingredients to make the music undeniably Tuareg. From this album they toured, building a reputtaiton as an energetic and must book band. 

Now in 2018 they are releasing their second album ‘Temet’. This album is focusing lyrically on the coming together of traditional Tuareg with the contemporary, globalised present. The opening song on the album ‘Azzaman’ has a video filmed in Algeria’s capitol Algiers, and depicts this ideology. 

Kept slightly under the radar, this Rough Trade concert was added a little last minute and was available for free. On offer however was the opportunity for a meet and greet with the band and a signing session of their new album. Rough Trade therefore were selling the albums on CD and vinyl. 

At 7:30 the band came onto the tiny, quiet stage in Rough Trade, a record store that has pushed back all the CD stands to the back of the room to make space for the intimate session. Perhaps less than a hundred people in the room, the band begin. 

Their electric guitars immediately echo, playing the signature riffs over and over, with the percussion riding over the top and the fast passed lyrics, almost sounding like a rap over the top. Everyone joins in for the chorus sections, harmonising, and adding impact. They opened the show with ‘Azzaman’ from the new album, and it worked perfectly to warm up the audience. 

I sensed the demographic at the concert, were more die hard fans, than wonders, as during the songs, ripples of on beat clapping would start from an individual obviously clapping musically in time with the tunes that must be imbedded in their minds. Then in another song, someone else would succumb to the clapping, and so on and so forth. 

After one or two songs, the band seemed to warmed up, and the small area became heavily compact as the audience became hooked on the music. The percussionists moved around with each song, from djembe, to bongos, to calabash and drum kits. Meanwhile each member sung at points with front singer ‘Sadam’ leading the way. 

The music was beautifully grooving. Playing songs from both albums such as ‘Imuhagh’, ‘Imarhan’ and ending on the epic ‘Tumast’. In such as small venue, to see such a powerful band projecting their energy so strongly, and playing these guitar riffs that just go on and on. It was an amazing experience, and one I am sure won’t be repeated easily. Given their next show is SOLD OUT at the Moth Club, I doubt we’ll be seeing Imarhan in such a small and intimate venue again. 

After a nine songs, their short and sweet set came to an end. The audience had woo-ed, clapped and danced throughout, clearly making the band at ease, as they smiled an urged the remaining audience members to clap the rhythm with the rest of the some-what over excited Tuareg fans, already clapping the percussion. 

If you are intersted in Tuareg music, these guys are an imperative name to know. As they are bending the typical format of a Tuareg band, and adding modern twists, groovy licks and funky bass parts. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and appreciate the opportunity to hear the music in such a small place. Also immediately after playing the band headed to the front of the shop for a cigarette in true rock’n’roll style, then sat down to take their time signing and talking to everyone that wanted to pass. 

All in all, fantastic band with an priceless new album. Well worth it. 

Members: Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane (Sadan), Tahar Khaldi, Haiballah Akhamouk, Abdelkader Ourzig, Hicham Bouhasse.

(All photos of Imarhan members LIVE @ Rough Trade, 23/03/18, by Sophie Darling)

Imarhan
Imahran
Imarhan
Imarhan

The Legend of William Onyeabor by Bukky Leo and the Black Egypt

19.03.18 

Jazz Cafe (Camden) 

Bukky Leo and the Black Egypt live at the Jazz Cafe 19.03.18 .Photo by Sophie Darling. 

Bukky Leo and the Black Egypt live at the Jazz Cafe 19.03.18 .Photo by Sophie Darling. 

Fred Schmid on baritone sax, entering the stage of Buky Leo and Black Egypt live at the Jazz Cafe 19.03.18. Photo by Sophie Darling 

Fred Schmid on baritone sax, entering the stage of Buky Leo and Black Egypt live at the Jazz Cafe 19.03.18. Photo by Sophie Darling 

16113340_1191188670936521_2118651781065976314_o_1484736664_crop_550x580.jpg

Bukky Leo, a renowned saxophonist best known for having played for years in Nigeria, his home country with Afrobeat innovator Fela Kuti after being originally spotted by afrobeats rhythm master Tony Allen. 

In 1982 Bukky came to London where he proceeded to make waves in the beginning of the acid jazz scene. In this era, Bukkys debut album hit no.1 in the rhythm and blue, dance and jazz charts. These days Bukky still tours with the likes of Tony Allen and funk and soul maestro Roy Ayers. As well as this, Bukky now tours around the top jazz venues with the Black Egypt band, an all star afrocentric band playing dedications to some of the greatest afro funk, soul and afrobeat, with such shows previously as Bukky Leo and the Black Egypt present Fela Kuti. 

Now they have come together in this stunning line-up of maestro musicians, with multitudes of recordings behind their names. Starting with the legend himself: Bukky Leo on Lead Vocals/Tenor Saxophone, Yeukai Makoni and Maxyne Ryne on backing vocal, Maurice Brown on Guitars, Kishon Khan on Keyboards and the retro Onyeabor-esc Moog Fender Rhodes, Dennis Davies on Bass, Richard Olatunde Bake on Percussions Congas and backing vocals, and  Saleem Raman on drums. The horn section: Toby Nowell on trumpet, Fred Schmid on baritone saxophone and finally Harry Brown on trumbone.

This time around the talented band are playing a tribute to the late Willam Onyeabor. (1947-2017), specifically they are naming the night: ‘The Legend of William Onyeabor’, obviously correlating to his innovative Nigerian synth based grooves, however I imagine they are referring somewhat also too the fact that the real William Onyeabor is an allusive mysterious man with legendary stories similar to that of Sixto Rodriguez, surrounding the music and fame of Onyeabor.

Up until super recently (perhaps even the changing marker may’ve been his death) if you wanted to buy one of Onyeabors famed nine self released albums between 1977 and 1985 on his personal label ‘Wilfilms’… You would struggle. Big time. The only available package of Onyeabors tunes is a 2013 compilation album released on Luaka Bop records called "Who is William Onyeabor", of which kick started an enigmatic comeback, all whilst existing in an unattainable oblivion. So much so is William Onyeabors life a mystery to all, that infact during the one gig ever organised for the guy… The audience was treated to a life size cut out of Onyeabor, only for the real human to never show! Stuff of legends. 

The musicality part of William Onyeabors legendary status comes from his innovative use of the synthizers. Born in Enugu in Nigeria, locally Onyeabor is supposedly a well known businessman and devote self proclaimed born again Christian. On top of this, he is known by the town as repectfully  “The Chief”. However in all of this, there is nothing to be said for the nine albums he produced, and near to no information on the man himself, other than that he was a man to be feared, with no-one wanting to cross the apparently, bad tempered Onyeabor. Famously Eric Welles-Nyström of Luaka Bop records was quoted to have said that in attempting to meet with Onyeabor to sign the pre-agreed contract allowing Luaka to release a complication of his songs was “one of the toughest ordeals I had ever endured in my life” and thus changed the pre-named “This is William Onyeabor” compilation to the more accurately titled “Who is William Onyeabor?”.

Onyeabors bodacious use of synthesisers was at the time unprecedented in Nigeria, and I’d take a guess in saying over also much of West Africa. Innovating an afro-techno, funk and disco genre with sometimes political lyrics, and sometimes lyrics straight from Onyeabors crazed and mysterious imagination. These synth infested tunes are catchy as hell, and amazingly good fun.

The evening as always at the jazz cafe was lit beautifully, with the seemingly small stage packed with musicians. They played the great works of William Onyeabor with immense skill. Each musician took their turning solo-ing, from beautiful jazzy solos on the sax, to the retro sounding synths on the keys by Kishon Kahn. The horn sections to the backing singers, everything fitted perfectly to William Onyeabors aesthetics. Bukky Leo reminded us of his ferociousness on the saxophone playing intense solos that had the audience gasping for the next notes. The disco drops played perfectly as half the audience danced 80’s disco style, really letting go and moving to the Nigerian beats. The other half of the demographic nodded in appreciation at the musicality of each instruments player.

Bukky Leo Live at the Jazz Cafe 19.03.18 Photo by Sophie Darling 

Bukky Leo Live at the Jazz Cafe 19.03.18 Photo by Sophie Darling 

The concert was split into two half with a 15 minute interval around 9:40. Upon returning for the second act, the band launched into arguably Onyeabors most popular song ‘Atomic Bomb’, from here on out the dancing flowed and the music grooved.

I particularly loved watching Bukky Leo conduct as band leader on stage, adding to the professionality of the musicians, and the supposed improvisation they were playing live, Bukky could be seen directing each section to start and stop whilst he conducted solos and jammed. 

Ending at a comfortable 11, the evening was a pleasure, it was fun and Bukky Leo and the Black Egypt truly played to perfection the works of William Onyeabor, a mysterious, yet seriously funky synth lover. 

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.