No-one should ever underestimate the impact on the band that an engaged and excited audience can have and when you have a band with the presence and joy that Ngoni ba bring to the audience you get a positive feedback loop of the best kind.

The main hall at Subterania was rammed last night and from the opening notes of ‘Kanougnon’, played as Kouyate came onstage to be greeted with a roar, the band and the crowd were in perfect sync.

The band was the smallest lineup of Ngoni ba I’ve seen, consisting of Kouyate on lead ngoni, Amy Sacko on lead vocals, Abou Sissoko on rhythm ngoni, Madou Kouyate on bass ngoni, Mahamadou Tounkara on percussion and Mostar Kouyate on calabash – and as Bassekou Kouyate proudly told us they are all family: Sacko is his wife, Abou Sissoko & Mostar Kouyate are his brothers, Madou is his son and Mahamadou Tounkara his nephew.
The band make a really cohesive sound with all of the parts coming together to create a magnificent and complex rhythmic assault fronted by Sacko’s intense vocals and Kouyate’s incredibly fluid ngoni lead.

The music flowed naturally with all the musicians taking the front at one point or another but the focus was always either on Amy Sacko as she sang and danced or on Bassekou Kouyate as his ngoni took the lead all through. The crowd was very much enthused when the two youngest members played a lead, especially Tounkara on the Tama talking drum played at ferocious pace or Madou Kouyate laying down almost jazz-like chords on the bass ngoni.

The subtlety of the band was marked on the title track of the new album ‘Miri’ (Reflections) where seats were brought out for all the lead players and the sweetness and softness of the music took all our breath away. We also saw the sheer power on ‘Ngoni Fola’ & ‘Djonkoloni’ with Kouyate’s lead taking off into an almost psychedelic solo. The audience was called upon to join in on ‘Djonkoloni’ and thoroughly enjoyed the “Aha”-ing along with Sacko and Bassekou and there was a sense of sudden loss at the end of ‘Nyame’ as the band finished.

On a freezing night in West London this was a genuine joy to see a band and audience completely in tune with each other. Brilliant stuff.

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