Imarhan + Boiling Point at Norwich Arts Centre, plus “Sound It Out” at The Murderers
With the nights noticeably drawing in it was the first time in ages I needed bike lights before 8pm as I tried to overcome tiredness and head towards Norwich Arts Centre for Imarhan. Of course as soon as I was in the city the tiredness evaporated and the evening got off to a lovely start as I was able to catch up with Bill after the exceptional [UNIT] at the Old Shoe Factory and the excellent David from Anglia Squared who wrote a truly splendid review of one of the other performances.
The time before the gig passed quickly and extremely pleasantly, catching up with friends listening to Boiling Point’s warm up set before Algeria’s Tuareg Imarhan – translates as: “the ones I care about” – came onstage about 8:45pm.
The set started with some slower paced songs as the reasonably sized crowd edged closer and closer to the stage and started to move along to the music. Somewhere about twenty minutes in something seemed to really “click” between band and audience, I certainly felt it and the expressions of the band indicated that they did too, probably as the tempo picked up and everyone locked on as one. The audience tuned into the groove and vibe, the hypnotic rhythmic beat from the two brilliant percussionists who switched roles between djembe and West African gourd calabash drum was impossible to resist.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Sadam was a familiar face having graced the NAC stage recently with Tinariwen a couple of months ago and indeed there are close similarities and connections between the two bands but Imarhan have definitely carved their own niche and sound, it certainly feels like a new generation of Tuareg musicians are making their mark, no traditional Tuareg desert robes on show tonight with the band mostly dressed in casual western attire, I think I even spotted a paisley shirt which gives a slight hint to their influences as there are occasionally psych moments but the sound retains that heart and soul of the Tuareg electric desert blues. Beautiful beats, harmonies, cutting guitars and a certain defiant “bite” in the sound. Despite the obvious temptation to mention them in the same breath Imarhan are perhaps even closer in spirit to the sound of Bombino with the sound driven by the fantastic percussion than they are to Tinariwen. The bassist was quite brilliant too and dropped some very funky basslines. Add to that an amiable young Bob Marley lookalike on second guitar contributing some delicious reggae chords and overall you had a fantastic sound. I don’t understand a word of Tamashek but Sadam’s vocals and the band’s delivery and harmonies give such an emotional feel – just the way music should be that one still feels highly connected and with a feel for what the song is conveying.
Tinariwen’s gigs at NAC are among my most memorable, I don’t think Imarhan are far behind Tinariwen now, their gigs here were incredible, especially that first visit but dare I say it, this might have been even better than that mighty band’s last visit which I would never have imagined, the songs are just irresistible and everyone in the auditorium was at least swaying or dancing along, it was impossible not to. The band were certainly at their best, live at least, on the faster numbers, that dervish beat is so compelling and hypnotic. At home it’s a different matter, listening to their gorgeous album on vinyl (as good a pressing as I think I have ever owned) it’s the slower ones that really make an impression with the sparseness and subtlety particularly evocative and emotionally powerful. I found myself thinking a few times that this is very much the next generation of Tuareg musicians with Imarhan surely destined for greatness though to their great credit don’t seek to replace anyone but join alongside the desert blues greats they surely shall.
All too soon it was over, with the early start it felt like an early finish shortly after 10pm … I reckon we could have got them back for a second encore had there been more of us shouting for them but nobody felt short-changed, this was a lovely slice of desert blues as our muggy, balmy summer weather continues through September into autumn whilst Norwich Arts Centre continue to spoil us with some of the best music in the world in a wonderful environment.
I’ve been blessed to see several Yve Mary B performances recently, an excellent set with Morganway at Head Out Not Home, a fine solo set at The Golden Star on Saturday, and then she joined us all at the end of OosWolf later the same night at Cactus Cafe Bar at a typically chaotically fun night, I saw Mssr Mortimer, Jasper Taylor, plus Shane O’Linski who called Yve up on stage to join for a few songs. The favour was returned on Monday at The Murderers for Sound it Out, a sort of informal “in the round” jam gig, a really special one this month. Jim Niven was onstage with his wife and Tom Conway when I arrived, later to be joined by first Shane O’Linski and then Justina, Ollie, and Yve herself for some amazing and lengthy jams. On this occasion more like the Velvet Golden Underground Angels than the Delta Golden Angels but absolutely terrific fun. So much creative energy onstage and so many fine musicians, eventually I was the only one left in the audience as everyone else was onstage jamming! Amazing!
After the incredible highs of The Besnard Lakes gig recently subsequent gigs weren’t quite hitting the spot for me but this wonderful few days of music has certainly been hitting that spot again, Thank you Yve, Morganway, Imarhan, [UNIT], “The Velvet Golden Underground Angels”, OosWolf and NAC.
all rights reserved (c) shashamane 2016