Posted In Experimental,Jazz,LDN LIFE,Reviews by Danny Wood
Monday night saw a world music double header at the Barbican. Buena Vista Social Club prodigy and Havana Cultura star Roberto Fonseca accompanied by full band, coupled with London’s own Ayanna Witter-Johnson as support, made for a truly complete evening. Read my review after the jump.
Ayanna was the first non-American to win the legendary ‘Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater’ in Harlem, playing tracks off the current truthfully EP, her unique and captivating voice was accompanied beautifully by the dextrous use of her cello, which doubled up as a percussive instrument and bass (which I haven’t seen done as well live since Raul Midon in the same space as part of the London Jazz Festival a few years back). Crowd favourites included her rendition of The Police’s ‘Roxanne’ and a touching dedication to her mother, ‘Unconditional’. A really promising set from Hornsey’s finest and with her EP being produced by Marc Mac (4Hero) it’s definitely worth keeping your eyes open for any upcoming projects.
The godfather of world music, Gilles Peterson, introduced the headline act. Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca delighted a packed Barbican with technical brilliance coupled with perfectly balanced instrumental battling between members of the band. Playing through the current yo album, Fonseca took us on a global musical journey through Cuba, Africa, Bulgaria and Morocco in a non-stop 2-hour set.
He admitted it had always been his ambition to make an album with strong African influence, enlisting the help of Baba Sissoko (n’goni) and Sekou Kouyate (kora) for both the longplayer and gig. Baba Sissoko was a focal point throughout the gig and the playful musical jousting and huge smiles between Roberto and himself were both entertaining and genius.
A rhythmically diverse evening, starting with fast paced album tracks with a more traditional (80’s) Latin pace, moving into passionate love songs (Asi es la vida) and those then a solid groove, switching styles effortlessly the sparing use of the vocoder was also appreciated.
The highlight of the night for me was the rendition of ‘Bibisa’, which saw vocalist and ‘queen of the night’ Fatoumata Diawara bought to the stage. A composition by Baba Sissoko, which saw Fonseca’s piano conversing with Diawara’s haunting and heavily reverbed voice. The duo of layered African strings creating a wholly atmospheric musical landscape.
The demonstration of superior musicianship sparring between genres, cultures and tastes ended the gig in a much-deserved standing ovation. A truly special evening for all who were present. You can get hold of Roberto’s wonderful yo here.