thu 20/02/2020

AfroCubism, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews

AfroCubism, Barbican

AfroCubism, Barbican

The Malian/Cuban supergroup play one of the most life-affirming gigs of the year

A misnamed supergroup no greater than the sum of its parts? Not last night

In theory, AfroCubism should have been one of the most exciting world-music releases of the year; how could you go wrong with a supergroup composed of Cuban and Malian musicians working towards combining their musical styles in a new and exciting manner? In fact, originally this get-together was meant to take place 14 years ago for what became the multimillion-selling Buena Vista Social Club album. But passport problems prevented the Malian musicians from being able to take part.

Bassekou Kouyate strolled around the stage in sea-green robes, a permanent relaxed smile on his face, manifesting astonishing ngoni solos as if it were the easiest thing in the world to do

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Howard, In total agreement with you . I really loved it and also the dancing that was happening near where we we re sitting. But it was a musical argument between ngoni and kora, Howard :^)

I agree with Zee - it was a great concert. I feared a clash of egos, or an attempt to redo the BVSC half a generation on, but neither emerged. Perhaps the (inevitable) live concert recording will capture the spark that some say is lacking from the album? But the album sounds good for me, anyway....

Yes of course it was a kora not a guitar, Zee. That's the kind of mistake one makes when writing a review at two in the morning! Anyway, thanks for pointing it out.

I attended the concert at Melkweg, Amsterdam, and it was also an amazing concert with plenty of energy and fun. But it's no surprise a live performance is better than the studio album. The same can be said of Buena Vista Social Club. At Carnegie Hall is a lot better. A misnamed super group? Only if you didn't get the play on words. AfroCubism - Africa and Cuba. I think interpreting the name as Cubism, the art movement, is taking it a bit too literal. After all this is a project between Cubans and Malians. What are that chances Cubism doesn't refer to Cuba also? AfroCubanism would have been obvious and less creative. Not to mention Cubanismo is a Cuban band. No need for those kind of references. Ultimately it would have been nice if someone had asked that question. I haven't found anything about the name, who came with the idea or the intention. A source of confusion can be the artwork. But the artwork came much later. And I suppose it was too hard not to fall for the trick and give it a Cubism interpretation. The easy way out from the artwork guys, but still a fantastic result. I personally love the artwork. As for the album being something to play in the background. Well, if you don't care about the details, sure. The album has a lot going on. Self-evident when you have listened to it several times with headphones and proper attention. The intricate riffs played between Eliades (btw, it's Ochoa - the 'a' is missing) Djelimady, Toumani and Bassekou can all be lost on a background listening. Maybe the level of expectations is playing boogie man with the album. For me it's a fantastic album which delivered what I expected - a mix of Cuban and Malian rhythms by virtuosos who don't need to prove anything and who are recording together for the first time, with very little time to know each other, bond, and experiment (language barriers aside) I also have almost everything these guys have put out before so I was really prepared for this. If there's a second album I do expect something better. I hope it's a live recording.

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