wed 29/05/2024

Orchestra Baobab & Blick Bassy, RFH | reviews, news & interviews

Orchestra Baobab & Blick Bassy, RFH

Orchestra Baobab & Blick Bassy, RFH

Music with all the right moves from the Senegalese legends

West African Greats: Orchestra BaobabYouri Lenquette

Africa Utopia at the Southbank Centre is back for its third year with a raft of concerts and events, and for Friday night Senegal's Orchestra Baobab returned to the UK for the first time in three years, one of the great names of the post-independence African renaissance. They were joined by a young French-Cameroonian artist, Blick Bassy (pictured below), who was coming to London for the first time with his debut album Ako.

He was here with his trio of cellist Clement Petit and trombonist Fidel Fourneyron, both superb, malleable players, and Bassy on banjo, singing songs inspired by Skip James and the itinerant musicians of his Cameroonian youth – he wrote 60 in two weeks, he tells us, whittled them down to an acclaimed debut album's worth, and here they were, not exercises in Blues nostalgia but contemporary, eclectic emanations of the Blues form and its multifarious roots and branches: in African music, in vaudeville, ragtime, New Orleans, and in his crowd-drawing theatrical showmanship. The cello work was especially impressive, while he sang in one of the 260 languages extant in Cameroon, many of them rapidly disappearing, he informed us, in the unnatural heat of globalisation. Soon, perhaps only English and French will be left. But in whatever language, Bassy's powers of communication were direct and impressive. He's got a strong expansive voice that's high and keening yet able to get down low and hit the grit.

Blick BassyHe was also very psyched about seeing Baobab, as were we all – and they didn't disappoint. However, I was sad that the great guitarist Barthelemy Attisso only got to deliver a few brief solos early in the set, rich seams of silver turning and shining in the thick, propulsive Baobab mix. Theirs is ineffable feel-good music. From the get-go, with “See Mo Wor” from Specialist in All Styles, their glorious 2002 comeback, through “Papa Ndiaye” from 2007 album Made in Dakar to the likes of “Utrus Oras” or “Werente Serigne” from the classic Pirates Choice set of the late Seventies, Baobab were loose but tightly bound, spry and effortlessly fluid, with a multi-layered rhythmic force that feels like it could move mountains. It certainly moved the audience – first it was women, then a few men, then a load of people, pushing out of the stalls into the aisles, down the steps and filling the space right below the stage – all this by the first notes of the second song. By the last, “Ndeling Ndeling”, a few women from the audience were more or less freaking out on stage.

This is music that moves, and the moves are positively joyful and releasing, not the movements of force, coercion or desperation, but moves of immersion and connection. We all need more music that moves like this.  

Baobab were loose but tightly bound, spry and effortlessly fluid, with a multi-layered rhythmic force that feels like it could move mountains


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Barthelemy Attisso was not on stage and is not part of the current line-up, which was a bitterly disappointing realisations ...I walked out after about 5 songs and no blistering guitar solos..

That's very odd, because I saw and heard him play, towards the back on the right hand side of the stage.

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