ethnomusicology

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 

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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. 

Songhoy Blues

23.03.17

Omeara (London Bridge)

As soon as I received notification that Songhoy Blues were playing in town, I knew it was an evening I had to attend. I hadn’t listened extensively to the bands repertoire (e.i Album by Album), however had been absolutely attached through a few key songs. These desert punk and blues songs I believe are attractive to everyone who enjoys a taste of the worldlier music. I found that my ‘punk-loving’ Godfather was even envious of my ticket, so it seems that Songhoy have managed tospread their net far and wide, catching the interest of a huge demographic.

    The band released their debut album ‘Music in Exile’ via Transgressive Records label in onlyFebruary 2015. In that very short two years, the band have managed to secure global acclaim and have highlighted themselves an explosive band dominating the ‘desert blues’ genre. 

    It was for this reason that the venue came as a little surprise as it’s not the largest (by far) of venues. It seemed that the evening was set to be an intimate performance as apposed to the larger capacity space I’m sure they could pull off. 

   The Omega is a fantastic little venue, with an incredibly exciting buzz. With a wonderful, if slightly confusing lay out, you can get lost in the little mysterious stairways that lead to upstairs bars, that themselves hang over a dance floor bellow. With twists and turns here and there you’ll be forever discovering small places to enjoy a beer, have a chat or get a bite to eat. Some may not even notice that beside their eating and drinking; there is a modest venue playing live music. 

    Upon arrival I was treated by extremely polite staff who directed me to the venue and gave us the obligatory stamp on the wrist and in we went. 

   Set in a all-brick arch, with a theatre-esc stage, the space is wonderful for live music, with the sound bouncing of the arched ceilings it created a small and intimate space for the audience. Given it’s size and sound quality it seemed nearly impossible to get a ‘bad’ standing space for the performance. The space of the whole building, and especially the stage area is a marvellous feat of old and new, the art with the classic architecture and innovation. It feels as though you are standing in an old underground with the best speakers and music tech surrounding you. The stage reminds me of an old pop-up book I had when I was younger, at one level we have the room and audience, then the stage pops up, then the performers pop up one behind, then finally a wall block of myst and lights to really set each layer apart. 

   Songhoy Blues came out on the stage and jumped immediately into their up-beat fast paced song; Soubour. The guitars really had an amazing sound, with the two lead guitarist playing on classic Gibson Les Pauls; their crisp sound resonated through the tiny arched space engulfing the whole room. The energy never failed to fall as they jumped straight into their next track, the extremely recogniseable Al Hassidi Terei. 

 It soon came to fruition however, that this amazing space was somewhat ‘un-drummer friendly’, seen as I came to realise that all I could see of the drummer was the occasional drum stick poking through the mist. Something the venue needs to work on, however it really must be said that the overall effect of having the stage tucked inside this unique space really is fantastic, with the lights shining through a thick layer of dry ice, made for such dramatic visuals it was actually very nearly besotting.

   The performance that Songhoy Blues then proceeded to play, was undeniably amazing. The audience; varied in every way absolutely loving every second were in the palm of their hand, with applauses filling the room mid song and nearing the end of every song too. Not once did a single foot stop tapping away to the extremely tight professional tunes. It felt as though I had never listened to another artists whilst in the concert as they took over all the senses completely and had my body and mind completely attached to their every note. 

    It was stunning the ferocity of each track, one after another it seemed they were a well established band at the end of their story playing nothing but ‘one hit wonders’. On the contrary however the Garba Touré Aliou Touré (lead singer) said to the audience;

   “This is an intimate gig, a family gig if you will… If you want to see us again, we will be headlining Somerset House on the 16th of July”

If this performance was only an intimate family version of their ‘headlining’ set, then we’d all be fools not to be there when they really go for it. 

   Their songs also carried messages that rung somewhat bitterly true for at least I’m sure all the British citizens in the room. Given that our wonderful Prime Minster had promised to start the proceedings for leaving the EU (a.k.a Brexit) it is known that this will hold complications for everyone travelling to and from the UK. So when the band made the shocking statement the the gentleman playing bass for them had only practiced a total of two hours with the band as he is not the original bass player. The reason being that their bassist had found himself refused entree into the UK, it seemed a shared sigh and a communal ‘shaking of the head’ swept the audience. I found myself wondering how many other wonderful musicians we are going to be deprived off in the future. The band expressed their feelings about this happening, and told us how it is not something new to them. They spoke of the many injustices caused by their ethnicity and skin color and then introduced a song they had written about it. The song was entitled ‘One Color’ which received a roaring applause, as one of the more well known tracks from the band, it was amazing to be apart of the story telling behind the writing. 

  “Our Ethnicity, Our skin color, Our origin - It doesn’t matter. Music is mutual, Music is different, Music is everyday” - inspiring words from Songhoy that certainly helped to build a feeling of solidarity among the audience. 

   I could have been at this Songhoy Blues concert with my best friends, having a crazy time or with my Godfather or with family, with anyone basically. I believe that their feel-good, afro funk vibes would have encapsulated any member of any audience. I came away from the gig, smiling ear to ear, a newly dedicated fan to the band; eager to get home and buy all their albums. 

   If you get the chance to see them live, it seems to me an absolute must, as their energy and happiness is highly infectious.

SOFAR SOUNDS Presents: Let Drum Beat, Lectures, Carmen Souza Trio

20.03.17

JuJus’s Bar and Stage (Brick Lane)

 

OnDJ Ritu’s ‘A World In London’ at Resonance Radio on the 15.3.17 we had special guests; the fantastic all female ‘Let Drum Beat’. It was on this radio show that they told us of their top-secret gig coming up in London that was being presented by Sofar Sounds. Eager indeed to hear these women play again, I applied via the Sofar Sounds website for the date that they had confirmed they would be playing. I was intrigued as to the Sofar Sounds process; I was told it was top secret; the venue and the acts, and that I would receive and email the day before the date with the details of the following event. So I signed up on their website, and waited. 

    Surely enough on Sunday night, I received an email, albeit a tad more informative; I still had no idea of the acts I would be seeing along side Let Drum Beat, but I did however know that the event was being held in JuJus’s Bar and Stage. JuJu’s Bar and Stage is a little hidden, noticeable by only a sandwich board, consequently my ‘Google Maps’ that often enjoys sending me on incorrect wild chicken chases, I ended up at the wrong end of Brick Lane. Not all was lost however, asthis detour allowed me a world famous ‘Salted Beef Bagel’ (mustard free for me) from ‘Beigel Bake’ (159 Brick Lane). A must for any visitors, and a delicious treat for any home town Londoners. 

   Bagel baked, and lips licked, I eventually found JuJu’s, had my name found on the intimate list of guests, and in I went. Juju’s is a fantastic space, with a spacious ‘stage’ elevated from the floor to the right, with room to dance, with a bar that stretches far left with high ceilings and an open feel, JuJu’s seemed perfect to hold a Sofar Sounds project. 

 

Blankets, Camera, Action! 

 

The evening was hosted by a Sofar sounds representative who took the moment to explain a little how the evenings worked and how they came out. Supposedly the project has been running for over eight years now, and has been awarded funding from Richard Branson. Since this investment, they have grown substantially, now being active in over 300 cities world wide including LA and Paris. The idea is simple, if you have a venue, be it your living room or your bar, you can apply to volunteer your space for an evening of music. From there Sofar Sounds will find suitable acts, lights and cameras, blankets and all manner of things to make the evening comfortable. They also encourage you to bring your own alcohol and food. Sofar Sounds films the evening that is performed acoustically, with simply just a few recording mics, then makes a rather fancy looking video that can be used by everyone involved. 

    This is an idea I can totally get on board with. The host said “Are you frustrated with going to concerts and you can’t see because people are on their phones” - this I could relate to easily, having recently been frustrated by a group of elderly people at a balkan concert who filmed the entire event ‘live to Facebook’. I also find myself frequently wondering if I am stood behind quite possibly the tallest man alive, and have to make do with seeing half the performances faces, as the gentleman in front allows an ‘every other beat’ window of vision with his side-to-side swaying. These are the kinds of things that can become grating at concerts.

   Sofar Sounds has really capitalised on these annoyances, and created a live space for music lovers, where they can come together with a shared respect for the music, and have a relaxed chilled out evening, enjoying, seeing and hearing all the music. Keeping the capacity to 50 people max, is probably a sensible number to keep under control. Finally the matter of the anonymous performers I think is actually a touch of genius. It’s ideas such as this, that I believe are imperative to the survival of live music events such as these. 

Anyway, on to the music!

  So the first band to be introduced were our friends ‘Let Drum Beat’. The performance area had their wonderful exotic collection of percussion instruments from Brazil, Benin and I’m sure miscellaneous other collections. Un-like when these wonderful women played on ‘A World In London’, they had no bass player, but instead a double bass player. They joined their instruments on stage, each women looking exotically beautiful and worldly. They then proceeded to treat us to some perfectly gorgeous Aro-Brazillan tracks the first of which started soft and gentle, and gradually built up to a climactic end. It seemed as though, as the track grew thicker, the audiences smiles grew broader. Like the arrival of spring coming through the darkness. It really felt as if Let Drum Beat were a breath of fresh air. Their second song compromised of simply an acoustic guitar and the Berimbau, a west African mouth bow, but a more modern Brazilian adaption. This song had such as driving force behind it, and an almost dangerous sounding thrive. It somewhat reminded me of the soundtrack to the world wide ‘Breaking Bad’ TV series. The third song really heard the cello fusing with the Brazilian, telling us that this song was inspire by North East Brazil. They spoke of how the ‘Tukra’ language had inspired them, and how they have been fusing the more melodic instruments to their percussion heavy repertoire. They said that;

 “Through music, we can keep everything alive”. 

The band are recording and EP and have a few gigs coming up that can be found on all standard platforms. 

 

As they left the performance area, we were told there’d be a 10/15 minute break before the next act. I was unaware of the structure of the evening initially, however having thought about it, having three half hour sets, with small breaks seems like a good balance, and a nice amount of music for one evening. Allowing the audience to stretch, chat, and get back to enjoying the music. 

    The next band that performed were introduced as ‘Lectures’. They consisted of a bass, acoustic guitar and vocals, a Prophet ’08 keys and synth and a small acoustic drums set up. Their music can be described as ambient, soft, indie, perhaps a little rock too. I rather liked the unique voice of the singer, and the calm energy radiating from their performance. Their overall sound reminded me of a mash up between Alt J and Jake Bugg, however in saying that, they certainly sounded original to their own sound, and had more soulful melodic lines. Their EP ‘Entree Point’ came out the week previous to this concert, and they played u the title track. From this title track I shall certainly be giving the whole Ep a listen. The rest of their tracks came with an effortless soulful groove. I particularly liked the old school keys to synth combination creating an ambient structure for their songs. For their song; ‘Peaches’ started with a driving drum gently thumping throughout, of which I like as a rhythm. However this is where my first criticism comes in, it seemed that the acoustic environment should perhaps have allowed for simply drums and vocals, as the combination of the two drowned one another out, making it very hard to hear and follow the lyrics. Although this was a shame, their last song pulled through and finished the set on an up. As with most their songs, the endings are somewhat abrupt and out the blue, a trait that I found I had warmed too in their musicality, almost taken a back, the audience realises the songs over, then reply with a warm applause. 

 

Next up was the Carmen Souza Trio. Quite the introduction they received, having released five albums, and soon to be releasing their sixth, this afro-jazz and soul band were perhaps the most experienced of the three acts to the performing that evening. Immediately I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the singers guitar and specialised guitar amp. I couldn’t quite get the make of the two, however the guitar was quite the spectacle of beauty. Accompanying this stunning set up was a bass guitarist and a small acoustic jazz drum set up. The band went forth and played a stunning set of soulful, jazzy tunes, sung I believe in French. The singer had the most stunning high end trills in her voice, frequently skipping octaves all together. There was an overall impression of professionality. They traveled through a variety of genre sounds whilst keeping it rapped up in this smooth delivery. I thought I heard some Seben guitar, a little Brazilian rhythms. Their songs were entitled things such as ‘Bird’, and ‘Hand of God’. The drummer took a chance to shine with a small drumming solo, that had each member of the audience air tapping along on their legs, the bass was strong and driving throughout, accompanied by an awesome, what we call in the industry - Bass Face. The band asked for some audience participation. Perhaps it is because of the smaller more particular audience, however the “sing along with me Mozambe!” back and forth chanting sounded remarkably professional and actually rather poetic. So ten out of ten to the beautifully sounding audience, that really made their set special, all inclusive, and really rather lovely. 

 

As I left that evening at a gorgeously reasonable 10pm. I felt fulfilled having seen three professional bands, with a quick and efficient turn around, a comfortable and accessible view and an evening of lovely entertainment. I am rather impressed with the Sofar Sounds set-up, and hope that it will continue, and also inspire like minded people to create more of these environments for live music. 

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The Världens Band

13.11.16

RICH MIX (Brick Lane, London) 

 

“Fourteen musicians, seven countries, three continents, one band”. Any world music lover would have their hands full with such a rich roster of indigenous instruments as are involved in the Världens Band. This colossal collection of cultures play styles of music hailing from the furthest corners of the world. Whilst watching the Världens Band I heard classical Indian inspirations, Swedish punk melodies, Mediterranean rhythms, Senegalese fusions, classic Greek and Scottish sounds, each blended with a multitude of various influences. 

     I walked into the ‘Rich Mix for the first time and I immediately liked the aesthetics of the venue. With its soft sunset coloured lights, it seemed there was a warm energy coming from the central stage. I looked around and couldn’t observe a particular demographic from the already formed crowd. Adults, old and young, stood side by side. Myself with a group of ethnomusicology students, stood next to a grandfather, father and son; a rare sight at a concert. There was nothing linking the varied audience together, such as style. 

     Immediately the eyes feasted upon the multitude of worldly decor and instruments dressing the stage. From mbiras, to koras, clarinets to Galician pipes, guitars to ukuleles, doumbeks to tablas, fiddles to accordions to name but a few. Promptly at 8pm, 14 musicians took to the stage and, without introduction, played their first tune: Thillana. Thillana is a traditional Indian song beginning with a lady singing in a traditional ‘devotional’ way; she is then joined, by the pipe, drums and fiddle. The audience is immediately receptive, seemingly impressed, applause circulates before the end of the song punctuating the singing of Charu Hariharan, who has won devotional singing competitions and has a wealth of traditional music teachings.  

    The tone it seemed, was set. Jumping immediately into their second song: this time one of the drummers came forward and played a tar which I had never before seen played live. So this ethnographer was starting to feel satisfied by this ‘world music’ concert. Furthermore the switching of instruments highlighted the multi instrumentalism of the obviously multi-talented players. The song then proceeded to gain instrumentation: bagpipes, flute, percussion and fiddle. Heralding quickly into an unlikely speedier pace - this pleased the audience who started to dance and clap along. This pattern of strange tempo combinations with break-down bridges was ever-present throughout their performance, mixing genres, tempos, rhythms and instruments in every song. Each introduction described which member of the band had written the song, from where in the world they had written it, and what styles it incorporated. This gave the impression that the audience were being taken on a journey: from each of the musicians home towns/countries, to the collected places they have travelled together. Each song was also embellished with a personal anecdote from the musicians, thus intensifying the bond between audience and performer, and by extension, audience members to one another. Furthermore the musicians themselves represented many different ethnicities, each adorned with clothes of wonderful colours and fabrics not local to London. An array of styles it seemed, representing their native homes, or perhaps collected whilst travelling the world together.

      Halfway through the evening, they left the stage, taking a break. Breaking a set into two halves isn’t something that happens in the majority of headlining gigs. I believe perhaps this was a sign of the seriousness with which they take their music and styles. If one was to attend an orchestral performance in a concert hall, it would be expected to see the performance split into two, unlike the many rock or pop bands I have seen.  The break allowed for discussion of the performance so far, and a buildup of anticipation for the second half. 

     I’d like to speak specifically about when Abdou Cissokho (born in South Senegal), introduced a song entitled “Revolution” saying “We are the young people and the old people of the revolution and we could make this world better… trust me” at which laughter rippled through the otherwise silent crowd. Each audience member appeared to be listening intently to the introductions of each song - something that had become apparently necessary in order to understand the forthcoming fusions. Starting a beautifully intense duet between Kora and fiddle, (played by Anna Möller of Sweden), with the gentle shake of a tambourine, a slow steady reggae beat is introduced with added bass, and ukulele. Abdou then sings the soft melody of a religious hymn sung to bring people together. Then it built up and was accompanied in parts by five part harmonies. The effect was instantaneous, as I look around the audience, all eyes are emotionally clamped on the delicate ornamentations being played on the Kora. A synonymous sway seemed to connect every person in the room together with one another and with the musicians.  Supporting musicians on the accordion, doumbek, the Galician pipe and ukulele built a slow tension, to then drop out completely to be replaced by a bass/kora bridge which was almost performed in a call and response fashion. This once againreminded us of the versatility of the band. Then at once, with a flourish of Kora playing, all the instruments are brought back this time to a faster, upbeat reggae, almost afro-beat rhythm

I chose to speak about this song in depth for two reasons, firstly because not one person could be seen standing stationary during this song, and the undeniably enthused round of applause received at the end of the song, which resonated longer than any other. It felt as though, if I had listened to their album before the performance, that this song would have been the anticipated highlight of the evening. Secondly because having later listened to their recorded version and compared it with their live version, it is clear to see that the musicians themselves are versed in live improvisation; the studio version of ‘Revolution’ has much softer overtones throughout the whole track. Whereas, when played live, it built an energy throughout the whole song, which in turn, amounted to a climactic ending. The scene resembled that of a dramatic carnival like celebration, with people dancing with one another, and taking strangers by the arms. 

      I once heard a seminar on the ‘affect’ of live music between each audience member with one another and also with the musicians. It said that the audience noticing one another enjoying the music, in this case, smiling and dancing, only enhances the feeling of ‘joy’ in the occasion and that this ‘joy’ will be enhanced further if it is shared emotionally with the audience as well as the musicians. I found myself thinking back to this whilst watching the Varldens. The obvious friendship and love for each of their songs was easily seen through their smiles to one another, their laughing and energetic dancing, which certainly enhanced an almost transcendent like joy from the audience. 

     After looking into the bands repertoire,  I found this quote from their website “Världens Band performs a mix of folk and roots music from its members’ native countries in a collision of cultures and a style self-branded as ‘Transglobal Roots Fusion’”. Since Transglobal normally refers to some kind of global network it seems a suitable choice of branding. 

Reading more into their background, it was clear each musician is highly esteemed and classically trained in their native folk music. They have many awards between them with many taking music classes with ‘masters’ of their skill. This was clear in the easy flow and complexity of the whole performance. Their album released in 2015 is entitled, ’Transglobal Roots Fusion’. Upon listening to the album and finding that not one track had the same origins as the next; I found myself further impressed as the quality of the recordings are of a very high standard making for easy listening. Being able to listen to each song more intently allowed for a better appreciation of the native styles woven into every track. I felt a sense of nostalgia when I heard a familiar part of a song, taking me back to their live performance. So it’s clear even a subliminal as well as a literal impression had been made. 

     The end of the concert heard a seemingly never-ending applause punctuated with cheers, ‘whoops’ and whistles. After requests for an encore, they introduced themselves and their team, played one final song and left the stage. I found that a huge number of the audience stayed behind, chatting to one another: strangers discussing their experiences with many people buying albums from the stall. I left feeling elated, feeling as though perhaps it was the perfect place to be on cold Thursday night in London. I have since bought their album, which I rate highly.