With a mix of songs from his new album M’Bemba and the much-loved Moffou, Salif Keita swept a sold-out Barbican along with a sensational performance
But first of all, the evening began with Richard Bona, bass virtuoso. The first few tracks were marred by a rare lapse at the Barbican mixing desk and it took a heckler to point out that the bass and the guitar were so low in the mix as to be barely audible. That fixed, the remaining numbers were a beguiling mix of jazz and Bona’s African falsetto voice. He even managed to get the whole hall singing ‘Mambo’. Bona has won himself a lot of new fans.
Salif opened his set on his own, just a guitar and that powerful voice delivering one of the most beautiful songs from his previous album. Later he was joined by guitars, bass, percussion and kora, each of whom seemed to be a virtuoso of his craft. Particularly good solos would be rewarded by Salif lying at the musicians feet. I nearly climbed up there myself for the kora player.
Having seen Salif a few times, I have a theory for why this was such a good gig. If the audience stays seated, Salif can be a bit flat, but get them on their feet and Salif comes alive. He bounces around the stage, that voice shines, the musicians get a lift. The gig takes off.
Even the overly officious audience police running up and down the aisles could not stop the party. Salif, good to see you again.
–Photo by Damian Rafferty–
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