Wednesday, 17 November 2010
The African Music Festival began in 1983 in Delft, Holland when Gambian producer Oko Drammeh decided to create a taste of home for the Africans living in Europe. Over the years, the event has featured many of the major names in African music including Manu Dibango, Angelique Kidjo & Miriam Makeba. This year’s event features a number of gigs taking place in various venues throughout London in September with this gig in particular being one of the highlights of a stunning sequence of live music events
As part of this years festival, renowned Malian keyboardist Cheick-Tidiane Seck checks into the Jazz Café for what promises to be an exciting voyage into his eclectic and intensely rhythmic African meets jazz sound. During Seck’s 35 year long career, he has explored a multitude of genre’s from jazz to African music, Indian, international groove to French pop and Hip hop. Notable achievements include composing for and playing with some of Africa’s famous musicians including the legendary Fela Kuti & Grammy award winner Youssou N’Dour as well collaborating with the likes of Carlos Santana.
Like many budding African musicians, Seck's childhood was spent learning the local traditions of his local cultural heritage. Later, he would study Western popular music in search of a fresh, contemporary source of inspiration. As keyboardist, composer, bandleader, singer & arranger, Seck presents an enlightening representation of the diverse and multifaceted nature of a musician from West Africa. His musical style often features the mixing of cultures and regions, contemporary and "traditional," global and local.
The 1980s and 1990s witnessed continued success and activity for Seck, both in his extensive worldwide recording and touring. A career highpoint was reached with his collaboration with jazz pianist Hank Jones on the acclaimed album "Sarala" in 1995. In 2001, Seck was invited by the University of California to teach a course in “African music meets Jazz”, a fitting acknowledgement for his efforts in fusing the two ground-breaking genre’s together. Anyone with even a passing interest in African music should look no further than this gig.
The gig itself: A Sparsely populated Jazz Café greeted Cheick-Tidiane Seck and his band as they embarked on an epic two and a half hour set. During this time, a special uninvited famous guest would take to the stage later in the evening.
Seck plays a dual level organ/keyboard and utilizes a piano in the corner of the stage throughout the gig. At one point he plays a distorted wah infused guitar solo on the keyboard that Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic fame would have been proud of.
Impeccable musicianship was evident throughout the bands performance with the drummer and percussionist especially impressive. The groove they create is so tight and hypnotic you can only stand back, smile and shake a limb or two in rhythm & admiration.
A familiar face walked past me towards the bar with a friend in tow. This familiar face turned out to be Damon Albarn of Gorillaz & Blur fame, deciding to drop in and show further appreciation for a style of music he has become enamoured with in recent years. I turned to my friend who is a big Blur fan and told her who it was & she didn’t believe me until ten minutes later when Albarn jumped on stage grabbed a bass and started jamming with the band!
His friend (Gorillaz affiliate perhaps?) jumped on the Piano and proceeded to show off some very nice chops to compliment Albarn’s two-three note bass grooves. The gig finishes with a round of excellent solos by each of the band followed by one last jam to bring the house down. The few in attendance were treated to a night of surprises and top- notch music, authentic African music in a live environment such as the Jazz Café is as close to musical heaven as a London gig goer can get.
Monday, 15 November 2010
FELA KUTI'S BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE feat Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra and DJ KOICHI SAKAI @ Jazz Café 15th October Preview & Review
Fela Ankikulapo-Kuti has surpassed mythological proportions. Since his untimely death in 1997, interest in his music and life has gradually risen in popularity with new & older generations alike. This year his shadow looms larger than ever thanks to the Theatre production of Fela! Coming to London for a 2 month run from early November to January. Fela! Proved to be a success on Broadway during this past year & has attracted financial backing by influential A-listers such as Will Smith & Jay Z.
The musical is based on his incident packed life as the sax playing & singing bandleader. The story starts with Fela studying music at university in London, then going on tour in America where he became familiar with the Black Panther movement. When he returned to West Africa - he combined his primary influences of Jazz, Funk & Ghanaian Highlife music to create the Afro-beat genre. He utilized “music as a weapon” to rebel against the injustice of a corrupt Nigerian government & built himself a commune he named the “Shrine” (still going strong today) where he lived, performed and married all 27 of his female backing band whilst smoking enough weed to make Cheech and Chong blush.
Kuti’s reputation as a revolutionary icon & music innovator will be celebrated at the Jazz Café, marking what would have been his 72nd birthday. Leading the tributes will be Keyboard player Dele Sosimi, who played an integral role as a musical director in Fela’s Egypt 80 backing band. Dele played the keys on a number of Fela Kuti songs including ITT (International Thief Thief), Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, he was part of the band that toured the U.S and Europe during the early to mid 80s before touring & recording with Fela’s oldest son Femi Kuti.
Dele has become of the leading figures in the Afrobeat scene through his multiple roles as an educator, instructor & a touring musician. In keeping with the big band tradition of Fela, his 15-piece Afro Beat Orchestra consists of a five-piece horn section and dancers to complement his core band that also perform with Dele when he changes his live band format to a trio or sextet.
Material performed will cover a selection of Fela’s classic tunes as well as songs from Dele’s critically albums “Identity” and “Turbulent Times”. Expect to hear one of the best live horn sections and experience a commemoration of a true original.
The gig itself: Upon entering the intimate confines of the heaving Jazz Café, it was abundantly clear that those in attendance were in party mode. The gig coincided with Nigeria’s 50th anniversary of independence plus there was the birthday of Africa’s most famous musician to celebrate as well so the celebratory mood was definitely prevalent. Dele Sosimi and his band didn’t disappoint with joyous renditions of such Fela classics as “Water Have No Enemy”, “Zombie” and “Lady”. The vibrant five-piece Horn section and group of backing singers & dancers deserve special mention for adding authenticity and musical accomplishment to the spectacle. A few of Dele’s own numbers were thrown in for good measure before the band departed the stage only to return for one more Fela number that the crowd were baying for. Even though Dele admitted onstage that they could have played through the night and everybody would have stayed, after an hour and twenty minutes the party was over and the people reluctantly dispersed into the London night with smiles a plenty.
Friday, 26 February 2010
This is the 1st of many blog entries chronicling my 2007 travels around India & Nepal. All types of bizarre encounters, surreal moments & insights will be shared from a personal perspective & recollected from memories & notes taken during this rollercoaster of a trip!
India is somewhere that has never really featured too high on my list of places to visit, however it is place that has a pivotal role in my existence and a country member’s of my family have traveled to frequently. My Mum & dad met on Anjuna beach Goa back in the 70s, low and behold a few years later I bust forth from the womb! Leading up to my departure I was thirsting for an adventure as I had caught the travel bug from an early age, took into my adult life & was in need of a prolonged break from the concrete jungle. Exploring or at least getting a glimpse of the Himalayas was something that I would have loved to do, however as I arrived in early January and had only planned to stay for two months maximum – these chances were pretty slim at best as April/May are the months when spring gets going & the mountains are at least visible.
Flying long haul on a hangover is not to be done, found this out the hard way. As my flight was on new years day, I decided to go my friend’s house for some new years drinks. Long story short, we started playing Poker that doubled as a drinking game. I took a couple of loses and had to do my shots. A bottle of Vietnamese liquor was produced with a dead cobra inside; the bottle had been in my friend’s possession for a quite a few months and had no doubt “matured” quite a bit. So I took a couple of shots & low & behold, something didn’t feel right in my stomach come the morning. Luckily had done pretty much all my packing the day before and had enough time to try and sleep it off prior to the evening flight.
However still felt like I had bypassed purgatory & had gone straight to alcohol induced hell on the flight, drifted in and out of sleep throughout the flight – I’m not looking for sympathy here as this was definitely a case of a self inflicted wound. I vaguely remember watching Snakes on a Plane and noting the irony of having dead snake juice swimming around my stomach whilst a whole bunch of live snakes run amok on a plane with Samuel L Jackson trying in vain to save the film…sorry I mean the day!
Arrived at Mumbai airport feeling jet lagged hung over and sleep deprived from a freezing & wet English winter was not the triumphant arrival I had in mind. Walking out of Mumbai airport to get the airport shuttle bus for our domestic flight to Goa was an authentic welcome to India experience. Horns from a zillion cars were blaring at a volume that was shaking my fragile state. The stifling heat & humidity made it feel like I was stepping into an oven cranked up to gas mark 11. There were huge swarms of people milling around for whatever reason, be it selling goods, waiting for arrivals or taxi wallahs trying to entice you into their awaiting cabs – this was something I was going to have to get accustomed to.
I recall getting handed my boarding pass for the domestic flight just after leaving the international terminal & at some point between getting dropped off at the wrong domestic terminal & arriving at the right one – my boarding pass somehow disappeared.
Monday, 21 December 2009
Enjoy the ride
Stax Logic reporting from freezing snow laden London town!