Photo by Sophie Darling   TootArd @ Rich Mix 01.02.17

Photo by Sophie Darling 

TootArd @ Rich Mix 01.02.17


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.


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

Congo Dia NTotila



Hootenannys (Brixton)


Hootanannys hosts the very best of anything upbeat; reggae, world, gypsy, dub, you name it, and is well known for it’s friendly atmosphere, with a pool table, plenty of spaces to sit and chat and hide away in corners, as well as a large dedicated space to live music and dancing. This is why I knew that making the pilgrimage on the Victoria tube, all the way to the end of the line on a Sunday, would be absolutely worth it. 

    I was making this journey to see Congolese fused band ‘Congo Dia Ntotila’. The week previous we had the pleasure of Congo Dia Ntotila performing on ‘A World In London’ @ Resonance FM. On the show they described how they have been working together to create this music that speaks patriotically of the Congo and of the Congolese music that bassist Mulele Matondo had been teaching his friends; John Kelly on Congolese seben styled guitar, Mike Sopa on trumpet and William Scott on saxophone, both trained in Jazz, and finally David Lessie of whom came from the same place as Mulele in the Congo, on lead vocals and drums. Whilst on the show they previewed a taste of their original afro-jazz-dance blend, enough to ensure that their upcoming concert could not be missed. It is also worth noting how on the radio show, the band spoke of their deep alliance with the music of the Congo, and how they wished their music to be perceived, politically and literally. Furthermore they spoke of the pleasure of being in a band where each member helped to create the music, each writing and composing their songs together as one working music machine. 

     When I arrived at the venue, I decided to try the ‘Hootanannys Home made Pale-Ale’, and much to my delight, I found it delicious and pleasant, a good companion for an evening of jigging and gigging. The room initially took a little persuading to fill up, however once the band had started their energetic, infectious music, the dance floor soon became obscured with grooving bodies swaying to the rhythms. 

    When they first came out, Congo Dia Ntotila played a slightly more jazzier tune fused with a heavy driving bass. They dedicated their first song also to the people of the Congo in doing so somewhat setting the scene a little. I felt as though the music they were playing had come straight from the Congo, and was being performed for us here in London as an education. Mulele playing the bass I noticed also had a whistle around his neck and from this, I knew we were in for an high energy fun filled evening of dancing and smiling. 

    The second song the band played was introduced as ‘a journey to Jamaica’, and hence forth followed a reggae tune. I must confess that reggae has a special place in my heart, therefore it came as no surprise that I particularly loved this track. Infused with embellishes from the whistle, and the occasional ‘ay-ay-ay’ from an audience member, the song certainly had people dancing throughout. 

    It must be said what a pleasure it is to see a band where the lead vocals come from the drummer, and such a soulful voice also. This factor of the bands make-up certainly for me addslevels of musicianship and talent with perhaps even a touch of disbelief at the skills on show. The small yet humble brass section to the band; William and Mike showed off their particular talents too, each having various solos highlighting the jazzier elements to the band, but also adding a unmistakably catchy riffs into the musical structure. 

    The third song brought a more African-dance energy to the audience, with Mulele on bass instructing the audience on how to dance. This creating a truly warm atmosphere, with audience and band laughing together, dancing together, and enjoying the shared musical experience. Multiple times also ‘More fire’ was called from the stage, encouraging the audience to retaliate the saying back further strengthening the relationship between band and non band members. 

    Throughout the evening, various people showcased talents in dancing. One member of the audience even managed to get a microphone slot during Congo Via Ntotila’s final song, as he claimed it was ‘his music from the Congo’ so the band welcomed the stranger as a ‘brother’ to the stage. The gentleman then proceeded to sing passionately, and impressively, and then began to somewhat scream, at which point the band took back control and fuelled the audience into a final goodbye. 

   What I particularly enjoyed from Congo Dia Ntotila, firstly was the length of the songs. Each far longer than that of what we tend to compose here in the west. The length allowed for a sense of journeying with the band through their music and their message. Bringing me on to my second point; the message that each song carried. Each song seemed to have a point to it, and each song obviously held deep meaning to the band, as Mulele would introduce the songs and talk of the issues in the Congo for instance, but also talking of the uplifting music of the Congo that is very obviously held is such high regard and pride for the band. 

    The musicianship of the band members was noticeably very professional, and very profound. With lead guitarist Mike nailing the complicated methods of Congolese Seben guitar playing in a couple insanely awesome guitar solos, and the diverse complex bass lines from Mulele, with the obvious multi-talents of David on drums and vocals, finally completed by the funky trumpet and sax. The overall compositions were in my opinion amazing, almost transcendent of being in the Congo hearing real music played by real people. 

    Congo dia Ntotila have been working hard in the studio for their upcoming album, and the band can be followed on Facebook for updates on forthcoming concerts and events. 

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

LeePerry Content


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.