What a lovely concert this was.
I saw Claudia Aurora at WOMAD last year, and she impressed me a lot, so I decided to drive through to Dunfermline to see her again. Well worth the trip. The Carnegie Hall is a pretty little theatre in the old municipal manner, but unfortunately word hasn’t got out that a fantastic fadista is in town and there are only around 30 in the audience. Having said that, Dunfermline doesn’t seem to be the liveliest place on the planet: wandering the streets, I wondered if an evil overload had the inhabitants under curfew…
Still, the audience is warm and receptive. Aurora repeats much of her WOMAD set, and the black and red costume, the side table lit by a red lamp, the wine bottle and glass, all attempt to recreate the fado bar aesthetic. She herself is lovely: warm, charming, sexy and, of course, with a gorgeously rich voice – the venerable and friendly gentleman behind me is most impressed by her middle register, he says.
The most successful numbers from her first album - the fado-walz “Silencio“, the beautifully upbeat “Mariquinha” and, my favourite, the flamenco/fado epic tale of impossible love “Cigana” – are delivered impeccably. She also introduces me to fado/bossa nova with “Formiga Bossa Nova” which likens humans to worker ants. “Povo que lavas no rio” is about the poverty and famine of 19th century Portugal and is really beautiful. She sings some new songs she’s working on for her second album too, and an absolute stand out is one about a mother pining for her emigree son (how very Highland Clearance) called “Lua” that is gob smacking, with a haunting vocal and a spine-tingling cello solo from the excellent Kate Short. The CD will be worth it just for that show stopper.
The rest of the band, too, are wonderful, including Javier Moreno on acoustic guitar, Andres Garcia on a teeny weeny 12-string guitar apparently called a viola braguesa, and Jon Short on double-bass. The guitarists are especially great: after the interval, they come on stage for a duet that has the “crowd” cheering, Garcia’s fingers moving at pretty much superhuman speed.
They come down into the auditorium for an acoustic encore of “Primavera” that is gently haunting, even allowing little Alexander – a toddler belonging to a young Portuguese mother in the front row – to join in the act.
A great night. Dunfermline missed a trick on it.
This is out of the Celtic Connections loop, but, after the success of Ane Brun’s gig at King Tut’s just over a year ago, I had to find out if all Norwegians were intent on demolishing Glasgow with sheer bloody volume. It appears they are, and it’s fantastic.
Rebekka Karijord packs as much sound on stage as she can, again filling the tiny venue with mammoth percussion; the beat is astonishing, especially on the really big, danceable numbers like “Save Yourself”, “Your Love” and “Use My Body While It’s Still Young“. These are epic songs, all of them driven relentlessly by fabulous drumming and a wash of ambience that, like Brun, soars high, high, high. She also does reflection beautifully – her own favourite, “Oh Brother”, or the hymnal “Prayer” or the keening “You Make Me Real” or her encore, the title track of her first album “The Noble Art of Letting Go”, are gorgeous.
Karijord herself is beautiful and sexy and mysterious, full of knowing smiles and genuine warmth. The harmonies she creates with her band – three young, charming, energetic guys – are fabulous, Karijord’s range rising higher and higher above them. She finishes the set with “Ode to What Was Lost” which, like “Brun’s “Undertow” is as sonically huge as a cathedral, jaw-dropping and goose-bump inducing. It’s the first of 2013′s wonderful musical experiences.
Really, this is one incredibly talented young woman who, with her excellent new album “We Become Ourselves”, really does deserve worldwide recognition. Of course, she’s from that Scandinavian wonky-pop tradition that sits just outside the mainstream, but I urge you; forget going with the flow, buy the album and listen to some of the finest music around.
While this, I am sure, will be amongst the best music I’ll discover this year, the gig itself won’t appear on the top ten list, largely because of the audience. It’s fairly sparsely attended but there are some real fans and many who are willing to immerse themselves in the experience. However, that experience is spoiled by others, including some chatty couples. The worst offenders, though, are a group of guys up the back who behave like adolescent chimpanzees, guffawing loudly and generally spoiling as many of the numbers as they can, despite shooshes and more than a few dirty looks. Comedy wooly hat guy; specky, wild-haired ugly guy – yes, you know it was you. Astonishingly, another member of the audience tells me that they are the friends and partners of one of the earlier support acts, both of which I missed.
So I don’t know if they were associated with Plum or with Loudon, but a word of advice, guys: if you want your friends to be booked to play with fabulous musicians like Rebekka Karijord in the future, show them and the audience that has come to hear them some respect and consideration; either that, or fuck off and be arseholes in the local Wetherspoons until the gig is over.
PS – one of the offending parties has chosen to reply to this – see below. I’m a little perplexed by the following attempts to justify his position:
(a) – the sound was too low? Then why weren’t you being quieter so you could hear it? The band was playing quietly – so you are incapable of adjusting your volume to compensate? Why should the artist have to play at a volume louder than they want in order to drown you out?
(b) Yes live music is about having fun. That fun is derived from listening to the live music. Chat about it between the songs. If you want to chat while music is playing, put a CD on and stay at home. There are some gigs – huge venues where the sound is ramped up – where your behaviour will go unnoticed; in a small, intimate venue with a small crowd and some quiet, reflective music, your behaviour can be catastrophic.
(c) You admit you were loud, but “not intentionally”? How can you be “unintentionally” loud and intrusive? Could it be that the word you’re looking for is “thoughtless”?
(d) you respected Rebekka Karijord? Then why not listen to her, and allow us to too? Does respect not entail paying attention when someone has rehearsed for weeks just to entertain you?
(e) The whole crowd? There were less than 100 people in the room. Your party seems to have consisted of about 8 or 9 people – almost a tenth of the audience. Six people commented to me about how upsetting you were – that’s a fairly high proportion too.
(f) I’m sorry I missed Plum, I’ve heard she did a really good set. I think she certainly should keep on playing gigs like this, and she should bring along people who support her. What those people who support her should do is have a little consideration for other gig goers and acts, out of respect for Plum and for the type of audience behaviour she would want. I did not say she should “watch who she brings to gigs” because, as she herself said, you weren’t “with” her. She is not responsible for your behaviour – you are. Or do you think she’s your mum?
(g) So you’ve never been challenged? Well, could it be that is because to do so would be to disturb the artist even more? Because an argument kicking off would make things worse? If you weren’t aware of the dissatisfaction many were expressing – including, I suspect, Rebekka Karjiord – then that just goes to show how self-centred you really are.
As for the insult – it was deliberate to provoke a response. It worked. So now you know how your behaviour affects many people, perhaps you’ll reflect on it. As for being ugly – I embrace my ugliness. Try it – it’s empowering.
I’ve written about this before; it astonishes me how self-centred some gig-goers can be, and it’s a pity that, more and more, I am seeing others – audience and artists – having to rebel against it. http://raymondsoltysek.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/the-modern-gig-goer-blessed-with-a-sense-of-entitlement/
I had begun writing a post about how flamenco guitarists are really sexy because no other man’s fingers can make a woman move like that: I’d also lined up a comment that Vicente Amigo is handsome enough to have stepped out of the Mediterranean episode of your girlfriend’s ongoing 50 Shades of Grey fantasy. However, that’s had to go, because for the second time in a few weeks, I’ve been to a concert that’s left me missing someone I love.
My dad would have been 100 years old tomorrow. In the 80s and early 90s, when I was just about mature enough to go on a night out with him but too immature to realise how precious that time would be, I took him to a few concerts. They were rare, but by gum we saw some crackers: Paul Tortelier and his daughter at the RSAMD; Rostropovich playing the Bach cello suites at the GRCH. Most of all, though, my dad loved the guitar.
I don’t know what kind of school education they had in Silesia in the 1920s, but it could make Curriculum for Excellence eat its heart out. My dad was multi-lingual, was taught chess at school and became a war-time army champion, and learned enough guitar to be a dab hand at it until Russian frostbite turned his fingers to claws and his knuckles to concrete. I think he always wanted me to learn to play, and made the mistake of assuming that because I could manage a tune on a flute I was actually really musical. He bought me a second-hand guitar in my teens, but my hands were too small and soft and I lacked the patience to practice, and so he used it himself, getting frustrated at his inoperative hands.
So he was a huge Julian Bream fan (he thought John Williams a bit flash) and we saw him twice; once, solo at the RSAMD, then, most wonderfully, playing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez at the GRCH. I remember shooshing him when he got a little too carried away in the adagio; who the fuck doesn’t? I wish I hadn’t been such a prick, and had just joined him in a chorus of “We love you Julian, oh yes we do…”.
Within a dozen bars of Amigo coming on stage, solo, and launching into a dizzyingly brilliant flamenco piece, I wish so much my dad was sitting beside me. He would have been gobsmacked. I can see him now, leaning forward (a habit I’ve developed), concentrating himself totally, losing himself. I think he would have thought he’d just seen the one of the best guitarists ever: I know I do.
Amigo is some player. His brand of jazz-flamenco is fantastic, those Moorish elements that make flamenco truly multicultural echoed in a band that includes muezzin-like vocals from across the Med. He hasn’t updated his website for some time, so I can’t find the names of the band members, but they are all excellent. He has also been working with Celtic musicians on a project entitled “Tierra”, and the result is a persuasive fusion that hopefully will be recorded. However, surrounded by a dozen musicians, it’s always Amigo who dominates proceedings. It may be that his instrument is tweaked a little louder than anyone else’s, but it’s more down to the fact that whatever he does, it is twice as technically stunning as anyone else on stage. He starts at 9pm: I have to bail at 10.40 with no sign of him leaving the stage. Quantity and quality: how’s that for value for money?
I actually came to tick another fado star off my list: Carminho is the latest thing, and lovely she is too. Her voice is more fluid than many fadistas, with grace notes like oil, and she has a subtlety that some big belters certainly lack. She too has been working with a Celtic signer (Maeve… I lose the surname), and while Gaelic and the fado style don’t go together too well, certainly Carminho’s richness of voice complements the rhythms and melodies beautifully when they do it the Celtic way. It’s all precise and pitch perfect and perchink, and in many places gorgeous; however, she doesn’t move me the way some do. I don’t get the hairs rising on the back of my neck as I do when I listen to Ana Moura; nor do I get that overwhelming feeling of warmth and joy and bonhomie I feel when Ana Bacalhau struts her stuff. But I’m more than happy to blame the venue: as ever, the buttoned-up GRCH is no place to build relationships with a performer. I’m sure if I’d seen her live in the little Aqui del Rei in Faro on a boozy Friday evening, I’d be bowling off into the night in a daze, madly in love with yet another fadista.
My dad would have been too.
No, I haven’t got my arithmetic wrong: I actually have given Deolinda six stars out of five. It’s my blog, I can do anything I want: so stick.
Deolinda are, of course, that wonderful Portuguese band I have blogged about before and who I adore because of the sheer sunshine of their music. I catch them doing a Taste the World session, and it’s really amusing to see their stage dynamic replicated in the kitchen. Singer Ana Bacalhau is up front, elbowing everyone out of the way, chatting away nineteen to the dozen; lead guitarist Luis José Martins quietly gets on with the important stuff as he’s obviously the talented cook (his father was apparently a chef); meanwhile, Luis’ brother, songwriter and guitarist Pedro da Silva Martins, and bass player Zé Pedro Leitão, who is Ana’s husband, beaver away quietly in the background preparing the ingredients for the dishes and organising the salad.
It’s a lovely way to spend an hour, watching your heroes cook. They take it very seriously, rustling up some patinishkas (I have no idea if that’s spelled correctly) which are salted cod bajhias, along with various salads. The guys get on with the cooking while Ana charms everyone by talking about their career and their relationship with fado (“We don’t do fado,” she says, “but fado is in our DNA”); at one point, she talks about the band crafting their sound and their songs to suit her voice, and that makes absolute sense. They perform four numbers, my favourites being the breathlessly beautiful “Passou Por Mim“, a lovely little tale about a smile from a stranger brightening up a lost life and offering hope for love, and “Mal Por Mal“, a swinging calypso about a disjointed, fractured relationship in which the wellbeing of one drags down the other.
Their stage slot just doesn’t do them justice: they take to the Siam tent at 12.30am, the last show of the day, when half the crowd are drunk and noisy and just not willing to pay attention to an acoustic band. They deserve better, but they do their best, which is, as always, fantastic.
Ana Bacalhau sure has a sense of dress. She often plays ironically on her surname – for their live concert recorded at the Lisbon Coliseu, she wore an odd creation reminiscent of shellfish – and here she appears dressed in a little black jacket and a sherbert-lemon tutu dress with what looks like a fish motif in large glossy sequins. Sounds hideous? Well, she looks fantastically adorable; I hear a few “wows” muttered behind me. And of course, there’s that sweet, strutting, cheeky streetkid presence that immediately commands affection and she begins to win the war against the bubbling horde.
I know that you can only really appreciate a band singing in another language if you either understand the language or know the music: for me, it’s the latter, so I’ve got the CDs with translated lyrics and I’ve watched the live DVD with the English subtitles on. Therefore, I know just how clever a songwriter Martins is, and how brilliantly his creations suit Bacalhau’s delivery. A song like “A Problemática Colocação De Um Mastro” is a terrifically subversive tale of a small town council puffing itself up by celebrating their enormous flagpole, one of those apocryphal morality fables that could have come from a writer like Louis de Bernieres, Italo Calvino or even Iain Crichton Smith. Their music is hugely political, but at the micropolitical rather than the macropolitical level: in that respect, they are not unlike Frank Yamma. Thus, “Parve Que Sou” is a red hot indictment of the austerity measures which are crippling the lives of young Portuguese, telling of a young woman habituated into blaming herself for her lack of opportunities who heart-breakingly comes to realise that the system has lied to her all her life. I’ve always said Deolinda make me smile so widely; they can make me weep with rage and sadness too.
But mainly they are fun, fun, fun: they’re the kids on the block who will drag their pals out to play in the streets until dusk, which is exactly what they do on the impossibly catchy “Um Contra O Outro” (“Come with me out to the street / Because that life you have / As much as you win a thousand lives, it’s your life / that loses if you don’t come!”); they are the youngsters who gather in restaurants and drink and joke and sing their hearts out until they’re kicked out at closing time; they’re the wry, witty cool dudes who constantly burst the bubbles of the arrogant and self-important, in so many songs like “Fado Toninho” or “Patinho De Borracha”. They must be a hoot on a night out.
I just have a few complaints. First, when I met them in Manchester, they said they were playing WOMAD, and so I booked up to get there on Thursday. I then discover they were playing Glasgow’s RCH on that night. So, instead of seeing my favourite band in my home town, I was 400 miles away. I could have come down on Friday and seen them twice in three days, dammit!
Secondly, at the end of the Taste the World events, there is an unholy scrum to get a taste of the food that has been cooked: you wouldn’t believe how sharp some hippies’ elbows are, nor how psychopathic they are about free food. So I hang back a bit, and never get a taste of anything they’ve made. And Luis José’s patinishkas looked lovely too.
Thirdly, there is one song on their second album, “Há Dias Que Não São Dias”, a sultry, flamenco-tinged slow burner about the pain of passion that is utterly gorgeous, and which I haven’t yet heard live.
Next time, I hope. Although, by then, their third album may well be released (around next February, Ana promises) so I may have a whole new set of songs I’m desperate to hear.
Already, I can’t wait.
ps – thanks Ana! She let me know through Facebook they are called pataniscas, and I’ve managed to find a recipe here!
Blick Bassy is a talented young man from Cameroon, which is perhaps unfortunate for him: earlier in the day, Kayrece Fotso, who charms everyone she meets, has some pretty scathing things to say about Cameroonian men. Still, he seems like a nice guy, so we won’t hold that against him…
He has a lovely voice, similar to Smokey Robinson, and his band set up some great Brazilian-tinged West African jazz-funk. However, it’s just a bit too samey for me: the programme promises something really different, assuring us that there will be no stereotypical bass solos; and yet, that’s exactly what we do get, even if the bass solos are fantastic. The band – and I can’t find credits for them anywhere on the internet, dammit – are very good indeed, especially a French guitarist who, in his looks and style and mannerisms, is the spitting image of Tom Cruise but is obviously not a dick or a cult member.
Perhaps I’m tired, perhaps I’m just impatient waiting for Deolinda who come on next, but this kind of washes over me – in a nice way, of course, like soothing warm water in a deep, deep bath.
I obviously have dribbly festival showers on my mind.
Hardly a month goes by that I don’t find a new fadista to be captivated by; July is the turn of Claudia Aurora, a London / Bristol based artist who is a lovely exponent of fado novo. It’s a fascinating insight for me into the development of fado and the relationship fado has with my favourite band, Deolinda.
Aurora has a classic fadista voice, a husky and rich contralto. She also conforms to type, dressed heavily but sexily in red and black, swishing her shawl in the most dramatic of fashions. She is everything one could ever want in a beautiful, heart-rending fadista.
She showcases numbers mainly from her new album, “Silencio“, and every single song is sweetly listenable. The title track is gorgeous, a paean to quiet reflection in a world of invasive and pointless noise. “Cigana”, the track she ends with, is an absolute standout too, melding flamenco with fado in a hip-swaying tragedy of a gypsy Romeo and Juliet tale: it’s really beautiful.
I think I’m beginning to put two and two together with this fado business. Aurora is definitely new fado – I can hear the freshness of it in the influences and the melodies – but it is also recognisably of the tradition. Take “Mariquinha”, a lovely upbeat song about a young woman who is jilted at a dance but who has a whale of a time anyway: that, it seems to me, is of the fado tradition. Deolinda, on the other hand, sing of horny young women who go to the dance, strut their considerable stuff and elbow every other girl out of the way to get to the guy. While Aurora sings of lost young women waiting for their men to come home from the sea, Deolinda sing of Portugal’s insanely stupid pride in having the tallest flagpole in the world. Aurora sings of the past: Deolinda sing of the depredations of an austerity-choked Portugal in 2012.
This is what more traditional fado lacks, a sense of the irreverent, the contemporary. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, and I will still respond viscerally and emotionally to the beauty of it. And I’ll always welcome a new fadista into the fold of my favourite musical form. Aurora says she will be playing in Scotland in the new year: I’ll be sure to be there.
Sekou Kouyaté may be one of the handsomest men on the planet. Tall, elegant, he is outrageously charismatic, with a smile like a lighthouse. He also has the distinct advantage of playing the kora, that fantastically gorgeous, huge 21-string Malian harp-come-guitar that is… how can I say it… more than a little priapic. Women around the arena audibly swoon when he straps it on like… well… a strap on.
Joe Driscoll is, on the other hand, a scuzzy New York punk ass rapper. He can’t compete with Kouyaté’s gorgeousness, so he doesn’t bother trying, wearing a basketball shirt and jeans that have both seen better days. He is effortlessly charming, though, and is clearly in awe of Kouyaté’s virtuoso playing, given that he name checks him a dozen times at least. But these two guys – one speaking English with no French, the other French with no English – have forged something very special together through the music they’ve created, and it’s a little blast of genius.
Driscoll’s folk / hip hop melds perfectly with Kouyaté’s African melodies, and some of the numbers are as danceable as anything this weekend, particularly one written about Driscoll’s home town. “Passeport” is available on a free download from their site, and it’s great too. What is a master stroke is using the kora as lead guitar; Kouyaté is known as “the Jimi Hendrix of the kora” apparently, but given he’s working with three and a half times as many strings as the late great, when he blasts his solos through a fuzz pedal, it’s like having Hendrix and a couple of clones up there for good measure too.
Their album will be released in November (I didn’t have time to get an early issue at the festival tent) and it will be a must have. Great, great stuff from two guys whose multicultural bromance is producing some scintillating music.
I love Ane Brun; she’s one of those totally unique voices and characters and writers that make the world a much richer place. The riches she brings are sonic: wash upon wash of utterly beautiful ambience that soars as high as any music I’ve ever heard. I’ve already reviewed her fantastic King Tut’s gig from last November, and have gone on record about how her “It All Starts With One” LP was my highlight album purchase of 2011, especially the utterly transcendent “Undertow” which, judging by the reactions of some of the audience, wows yet again. It is, I think, one of the most sublimely beautiful songs ever recorded; it’s an essential for any sort of a fulfilled life.
I think that experience last year is why I am just a little disappointed. She’s one of those I came to see especially, and she is again wonderful – but the King Tut’s gig was monumental in its soundscape. Here, there are fairly considerable sound problems, to the extent that she spends most of her opening number, the title track, with a sound man half way up her shirt to fix her radio pack. I don’t think it’s ever fully solved, because the louche, sexual “Worship” and even the thumping “Do You Remember” sound just a little muddy and insipid. That isn’t her fault – it’s the fault of playing to a barn with a sound system that doesn’t quite cut the mustard – so I still love her, and would walk over hot coals to see her perform again.
In addition, it’s only an hour long, so much of her gorgeous earlier recordings like “Humming One Of Your Songs” or “Gillian” or “Sleeping by the Fyris River” have to be jettisoned: the only song not on the latest album is “Balloon Ranger”. However, she does a Taste the World session (it’s quite charmingly obvious fairly soon that she can’t cook, and luckily the Blue Peter Faerie has conjured up a “here’s one we did earlier” salted cod stew) and we get the chance to hear some of her more intimate numbers, including “The Puzzle” and “Du Gråter Så Store Tåra” (which, translated as “Tears are much heavier these days”, is quite lovely). She tells us a lot about her career and her development as a musician and comes across as a genuinely sweet, down to earth girl from a sleepy little Norwegian fishing village half way up her guitar.
And she’s a star, too. Yes, I love Ane Brun.
I turn up out of curiosity, this not having been on my must-see list. Dixit comes on stage and sheepishly tells us his band are going to play a song about finding yourself. I think, “Oh shit, get my chakras out of here”. Then he just blows the Siam tent away and I can’t stop smiling.
Neither can he or his band, and that’s what makes this such a joy. He is clearly astonished and delighted by his success, as deserved as it is. Think Cornershop, but really, really excellent, with a charismatic lead singer in possession of a full-throated, vibrant tenor and a winning personality and a cool band with a bass player, Guarav Vaz, who rivals Rex Horan in the coolly hairy sweepstakes. No wonder bands like Basement Jaxx and Bellowhead are falling over themselves to work with him.
Most of the set is taken from his latest album “Antaragni” (preview it here) and songs like “Mysore Se Aayi”, “Gudugudiya Sedi Nodo” and “Khidki” are great danceable licks. So too is the barnstorming “Well I’m in Mumbai, waiting for a miracle“, a song guaranteed to elicit contagious pogoing in any audience listening to it.
Then comes probably the sweetest thing I have ever seen at any gig, ever. Dixit calls for Dave in the audience, who has sent him an e-mail asking him to dedicate “No man will ever love you, like I do” to his girlfriend Jacqueline. And the man in front of me – literally, right in front of me – puts his hand up while his girlfriend covers her face in embarrassment.
Dixit reads the whole e-mail. Teenage sweethearts, they had drifted apart and hooked up again 40 years later after living on the fringes of the same social groupings. It’s like we’ve never been apart, Dave says.
Dixit himself says he always thought the song was a bit cheesy, but he’s glad it means so much to others; and, to be fair, it’s not exactly a classic song. However, in the middle of it, Dixit shouts to Dave, “You know what to do!” and I swear, right there six inches in front of me, Dave goes down on one knee and proposes, and Jacqueline, bless her, throws her hands in the air and accepts. Cue audience going nuts.
That moment alone was worth five stars, believe me. I wish them all the happiness in the world, and Raghu Dixit all the success he can handle for inspiring such a lovely moment.
Hugh Masakela, the venerable South African trumpeter I last saw back in November 2010, is the perfect act to start the festival proper. His years of political activism and his championing of the anti-apartheid movement while still supporting the development of South African musicians are unparalleled, save perhaps for Miriam Makeba. He’s a trumpeter of great skill and an impeccable groove, and vocally he’s as exciting as many singers half his age.
This is all slick and perfectly done, young guitarist Cameron Ward is a real star and Masakela is as genially twinkly as ever; much dancing does occur, even from yours truly. However, some of Masakela’s mugging becomes just a little tiresome second time around, and his patter – including the tale of his birth in Reading and being washed away down to Africa where he became black by rolling around in penguin shit – is just a little uncomfortable. I am as fond of irony as anyone, and it is not for me to say, I know that – Masakela has earned the right to take whatever language or mythology about the black man he cares to and can do whatever he likes with it, and to hell with any white liberal sensibilities I might have – but it made me squirm more now that I know it’s an established part of his routine when, in 2010, I thought it was simply cheeky ad libbing.
But, clearly, at the end of the day the man is a legend, a hero and a damned fine musician we should treasure.