Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cheick Tidane Seck - African Music Festival @ Jazz Cafe September gig preview and review

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.

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