Tamikrest, and Sefo Kanuteh at Norwich Arts Centre, 2 November 2014. Review and photos by Richard Shashamane. Photos not to be used without permission.
Tamikrest visited Norwich last year in a gig I was very disappointed to miss so I was delighted to get another opportunity tonight which also concluded Black History Month.
Opening the evening was our very own amazing Sefo Kanuteh, playing all his set today on kora and even managing to get the entire audience to sing along with him in the Mandinka language of some of his songs. There is something so enchanting, calming, and even healing about the sounds of his kora playing, especially so with his illuminating introductions to them. Quite naturally a good percentage of the audience were actually listening sat on the floor, as if in the presence of a storyteller or African griot, as indeed they were. The word that most readily sprang to mind for this set is ‘mesmerising’. Sefo played flawlessly, charmingly and beautifully and everyone present roared, whooped, and whistled their approval at its end with a smile on the face of everyone.
Sefo can surely spread further afield and be heard by a wider audience. His playing always seems to be perfect and he has a modest, gentle unflappable confidence and easy stage presence. The music itself is simply divine, be it solo on kora as it was tonight, or with balafon and Adam Clark accompanying him on guitar, or the sensational sound of him playing with the full Meriya band it is never anything less than a great musical pleasure to hear these West African songs played live.
It’s easy to tie in Tamikrest in with Tinariwen – who played an unforgettable gig here recently – and they do indeed have many similarities (and have subtle badges of support for the Azawad region of Mali) but that’s not to say that they sound the same and although they are invariably mentioned in the same breath it would not be fair to compare them too much as on deeper inspection they have many differences in sound. Whilst they clearly have the same beliefs and cover some of the same subjects, Tinariwen have perhaps a more militant sounding edge whilst Tamikrest wear their western musical influences a bit more prominently with elements of rock, blues, folk, reggae, some unexpected and welcome dub, and even a bit of prog showing from time to time whilst retaining their strong Tuareg sound and identity. Their sound is hypnotic, deep bass grooves, a full drum kit as well as more traditional African drum sounds such as the djembe, pleasingly played right at the front of the stage. Two guitarists and two vocalists, the female singer also providing handclaps throughout, much of the time with accompanying participation from the audience.
Whilst the venue for this Sunday night gig was perhaps just over half full, everyone was there because they wanted to be and loved it. There was some great and lively dancing going on down the front, not least from the lad in the wheelchair, and everybody was smiling making the atmosphere superb and the sound of the crowd equivalent to that of a capacity audience. Singer Ousmane Ag Mossa appeared a little taken aback and enjoying every moment. Not speaking much English he made a couple of speeches in French which were translated by their percussionist, one being an introduction to a song which meant a lot to them, that addressed some of the problems of their homeland and the Tuareg people, and the children not even having access to schools or hospital. His other speech was a heartfelt one of gratitude to an attentive audience and what an honour he felt playing here having idolised as a child the likes of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, and Mark Knopfler. These influences all apparent at various times, and one song definitely branched off into some reggae and excellent dub, whilst the guitar influences (and that of Hendrix, and Bob Marley) were rarely far away.
A lot of their songs were mesmeric too, they played for close to a couple of hours but that simply flew by, many of the songs seven minutes plus with that loping rhythm and repetition which causes a beautiful musical trance-like state.
Chatting outside the venue later on I again saw Ousmane Ag Mossa who was so grateful for us coming to hear him play. We are grateful to Tamikrest for playing for us, this was a gem of a gig and an absolute privilege for all an attendance.
Many thanks to Tamikrest, Sefo Kanuteh, and Norwich Arts Centre.
richard shashamane 2014 photos (c) all rights reserved