gig

TootArd

Photo by Sophie Darling   TootArd @ Rich Mix 01.02.17

Photo by Sophie Darling 

TootArd @ Rich Mix 01.02.17

01.02.18 

Rich Mix (Brick Lane) 

It is always a pleasure to go to the warm, welcoming Rich Mix centre for a concert, and tonight was no different. 

The lights were set in a groovy array of greens and reds and blues, I was aware the band were joining the stage at 9pm prompt following a set from the DJ spinning world vinyls. 

Although a little sparse at first, the audience soon filled out and when nine o’clock came around the room was packed, immensely heating up. 

The five piece came out opening their set with a killer track from their debut album ‘Nuri Andaburi’, of which came out in 2011; Jeena. The catchy chorus has such a smooth flow, the bass is groovy, and it introduces the middle eastern themes in a light way. Jeena is also one of the  bands reggae tracks, of which TootArds have become some what renowned as the ‘reggae band of Syria’. The band skanked in unison as the audience indulged.

drummertootard

From the Golan Heights, this five piece: two electric guitars, bass, saxophone and drums with main vocals, and 3 harmonies, travelled to England. It has taken years to have the band  come to England to play for us due to various visa issues, and receiving different passports when during their personal displacement experiences. 

The audience seemed ecstatic , and when they said “does anyone here speak Arabic’, the room exploded, it seemed clear that TootArd have gained quite a respectable following in England. I found myself wishing I could understand Arabic as the songs had such a infectious groove, I found myself subliminally, and certainly incorrectly,  singing along. 

There was an insane groove funking from the bass at all times, almost western funk disco-esc bass lines. If one were to listen soul to the bass lines, for sure that person would be pulling a bass face before they knew it. 

What’s I particularly found interesting however, is how they play over the bass. So listening to the albums, you’d assume middle eastern instruments, a shawm or a saz perhaps, but what is so unique about TootArds, is that they create the middle eastern aesthetic, not with the usual instruments that produce the sound, but however by pairing an electric guitar with a saxophone that simultaneously play the middle eastern riffs. Together the two separate, totally non-middle eastern sounding instruments amazingly create a rusting sound that could fool anyone into thinking it was a Turkish saz, or a Shawn from the silk road. The electric guitar sounds as though it may be using some kind of tremolo effect and in perfect sync, they play the typically middle eastern-esc riffs that matching the sounds of the saxophone and guitar together make perfect maqqam quarter notes intonation. 

I had never seen this sound so brilliantly replicated and found it interesting, innovative and inspiring. 

I really came away from the TootArd evening a really huge fan. I enjoyed every song they played, and found their energy to be uplifting, happy and peaceful. There were moments of audience participation, singing along and dancing all night. The evening was a pleasure, and the band impeccable. 

TootArd at Rich Mix 01.02.18

TootArd at Rich Mix 01.02.18

Lee ‘Scratch' Perry and The Upsetters, support from Kioko.

LeePerry Content

05.03.17

The Village Underground 

 

Reggae is certainly one of my favourite genres of music to see performed live. It would be very hard indeed to find a ‘reggae lover’ who hasn’t heard of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (a.k.a The Upsetter). Having been an active musician since the 50’s, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has been at the forefront of musical innovation, noted as being an ‘inventor’ in dub music having created new studio recording and production techniques. Needless to say being able to see Lee Perry, simply in the flesh, was a thrilling experience. 

  The Village Underground tucked away in east London, is a wonderfully renovated underground space, with red brick walls, large arches, and high ceilings, the venue was cool aesthetically and a fantastic for capturing the sound.

  The packed support for the evening was: Reggae Roast, MC Brother Culture, Resonators and Kioko. I arrived during the final battling of MC Brother Culture with the Resonators certainly setting the scene for a night of real roots reggae. 

  The audience was what I’d have expected; a larger number of older people, ready to re-live ‘the good old days’ (Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself was born in 1936 and is now 80!), plus many younger people of all ages and fashions. One thing I believe everyone had in common was the idea that this concert was for many, a ‘bucket-lister’, and probably a one-and-only chance to see such a prominent character in music history.  

  The final support act came to the stage ten members strong, with a standard reggae set-up complete with a brass section. I immediately liked their energy, the “vibe” seemed fitting to pump up an audience for such an event. Opening their act with almost ‘chant’ like lyrics;

“Listen to the music that makes you feel free, Sing it back to me….KIOKO”. Starting with a huge amount of ‘audience participation’ (perhaps too much for my personal liking) their songs were certainly energetic, catchy and woke up the audience. The lead singers voice reminded me of one of my favourite bands ‘The Skints’ vocals; and perhaps for that reason I warmed to the band. They smoothly jammed through 45 minutes certainly building the excitement and feeding the buzz for ‘the legend that is Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’. 

  Having worked with some of the biggest names in Reggae history such including: ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos, Max Romeo, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys, Ari Up, and many others’…This ideology that Lee Perry is a ‘Legend’ was not only fit, but was clearly a respected title, as every musician on stage that evening that spoke of the man as ‘the legend’. 

  Finally around 10pm the, also world renowned, band ‘The Upsetters’ came to the stage, they then proceeded to play an instrumental piece before asking the audience if we were ready for “The Legend himself….LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY”.

  I honestly have to say, I was filled with joy as Lee Perry came to the stage and the band jumped straight into a set filled with classics. The man himself brought enough joy for the evening with simply his bodacious outfit that reminded me some what of a magpie. At 80 years old, Lee Perry was dressed in an orange suit, with matching orange beard and hair, a hat bedazzled with gems, whilst adorning all manor of exotic jewels and sparkles. 

  On the microphone, Lee Perry rarely sung the lyrics to any of the songs throughout the evening and instead seemed to freestyle reggae talk over the tunes rhyming about anything and everything. For nearly the whole rendition of ‘Iron Shirt’ Lee Perry was singing about his ‘ginger wine’ that near to the end of the song was found by a stage tech and handed to Lee Perry, who then moved on to sing about something it appeared he had found on the floor. 

Although unorthodox, I felt that it in no way damaged the evening. Looking around, the general reception of the performance seemed happy, with people frequently sharing laughs and generally enjoying the atmosphere. 

I was reminded of the old saying “The older you get, the less you care” and thinking of how empowering the performance was. I also found myself thinking that had the concert been advertised as ‘The Upsetters with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry improvising lyrics throughout’…I’d still have brought a ticket. 

   The Upsetters played flawlessly, a seriously professional polished set that was executed perfectly. I felt that the whole evening exceeded expectations. The fact Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry hardly sung one whole line of his lyrics that we all know so well, but instead spoke completely random off the cuff rhymes; created what felt like a more profound, intimate and certainly original experience. 

 

Namlo, with special guests Kadialy Kouyate and Merlyn Driver.

Namlo Content

02.03.17

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. 

The Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra, With Special Guests, Mamak Khadem and Olcay Bayir

DzamboContent

28.02.17

The Forbe, Camden

 

Having never before been to the Forbe 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 to2011 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.