20 March 2014 (gig)
22 March 2014
The surroundings of London’s Union Chapel seemed perfect for Bassekou Kouyate’s latest gig in the UK.
Since the first time I saw Kouyate in a tiny club near Regent Street and through performances at Cargo, The Barbican and others this was the most confident and also the happiest I had ever seen him and his band/family. Judging by the speed that the show sold out – he could have played two or three nights easily – London has fallen in love with him as well.
The performance featured all the elements that you would expect from Ngoni Ba. Fluid and furious rhythms, solo after solo dripping with an almost harp-like pluck and sweetness to the notes, Amy Sacko’s keening vocal and the dancing – all the band dancing and moving, playing little tricks but always playing for and with each other. Watching, there is no question that Bassekou Kouyate is the leader of the band / head of the family but every member of the band has an opportunity to shine and shine they do.
The performance included numbers from all three of his albums – ‘Segu Blue’, ‘I Speak Fula’ & ‘Jama Ko’ – and the trials that have beset Mali come through in some of the songs from the ‘…Fula’ period but there was also some joyous playing and some of the percussion was celebratory in its intensity.
When the entire audience at the Union Chapel is pulled to its feet in an explosion of joy, when half the crowd can’t sit still for dancing and when the buzz around the crowd after the gig was such that you felt lifted by the emotion then you have something rather special.
One of the best nights I’ve had at a magical venue – they were made for one another.