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“Miniamba” Recorded Live @ Artistree VT; 12/13/2016

“The Non-Griot” Original Composition Recorded Live @ Artistree VT 12/15/2016

@ the Rabbit Hole, London 2015

Althea performing solo kora down the rabbit hole in London in 2015

Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso at Barbican, London; May 4th, 2016

 

This piece, written by Althea SullyCole, was originally published for “A World In London”

victorguidini@victorguidini.com

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil’s triumphant return to the London stage at the Barbican on May 4th was so full of intimacy, grace and humility that one would never know that they remain two of the greatest pioneers of Brazilian popular music. The engagement marked nearly 45 years since their exile to London during the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1970s, yet they still seemed perfectly at home. In button up shirts, black jeans, and matching black sneakers, the two descended onto the stage as if it were their front porch Bahia; Veloso sat with his guitar resting over crossed legs, while Gil used a classical guitar foot stool (unorthodoxly under his right foot), with one glass of water and and another of red wine between them.

With more than 40 albums of material, the two 73-year-old artists had a vast repertoire to draw from for this monumental performance. From massively popular hits like “Tropicalia”, “Expresso 2222”, “Filhos de Gandhi” and “O Leozinho”, to more obscure songs like “É De Manha” (written in 1963 by Veloso, this was the oldest composition of the evening) and “As Camélias” (the newest piece, written in collaboration), they breezed through 25 pieces in less than an hour and half, returning for 2 encores, amounting to a composite performance of 30 pieces in two hours. The feel between them, nostalgic for another time, place and circumstance, achieved a sort of unison seldom seen in younger performers, as their two hands wandered over the neck and nylon strings of their respective guitars like choreographed dancers. However, when the performance began to feel too relaxed or nostalgic, Veloso would spice things up with a performative shimmy or 2 step, dancing to the delight of the crowd.

As individuals, Veloso, one of the most romantic voices of our time, exhibited the best of his dextrous and evocative vocal command in classic pieces like “Tonada De Luna Ilena”, while Gil displayed his endless creativity in characteristic labyrinths of chord progressions, coming to an impressive zenith in a jazzy interpretation of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. Together, their effortless vocal harmonies and undulating samba rhythms produced the most romantic atmosphere one could imagine in a room filled with nearly 2,000 people. Indeed, these songs and these performers put their audience at such ease, you can feel couples leaning into one other, holding hands and old friends swaying gently together, shoulder to shoulder. If you are not afforded the rare opportunity to see these two perform, I highly recommend purchasing their new album, “Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música” (“Two Friends, A Century of Music”), and putting it on in your living room with a few friends. This is the most authentic performance.

Vieux Farka Touré at Kings Place, London; January 27th, 2016

This piece, written by Althea SullyCole, was originally published for “A World In London”

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Malian vocalist and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, who has joined us on A World In London on two separate occasions in 2010 and 2015, performed at King’s Place near King’s Cross in Central London. Touré has released three studio albums, one live album, and several notable collaborations since 2007.

Touré sauntered on stage at 8:15 pm or so, donning a traditional mint bou bou and a fedora shading his eyes. He picked up his guitar and dashed into the first two pieces, “Filipa” and “Fafa,” with a particular urgency. His backing musicians, bassist Jean-Alain Hohy and drummer Jean-Paul Melindji, in more contemporary dress but similar visors, followed suit.

His third song “The World,” then launched the audience into the most alt-pop/rock sound of the evening, followed by “Ali,” a salute to his father, the late Ali Farka Touré, (pioneer of the desert blues style of northeastern Mali), with a more African feel.

After one more song, “Jakhal” and a twenty minute intermission, it became clear that Touré had saved much of his energy for the second set. Indeed, “Waliadu,” a cover of his father’s most iconic tune, was certainly the crowd favourite of the evening. The modern Malian traditional “Jarabi” that followed, reinvigorated by one of Touré’s most creative and harmonic solos of the concert, was certainly a high point. By the end of the tune, Touré’s voice relaxed into an earthy, sonorous unison with his guitar–a welcome moment of meditation in an otherwise hasty performance.

To conclude, Touré delivered a few dance tunes, leaving his backing musicians room to build upon dynamics and even do a bit of soloing, though the spotlight remained consistently on Touré. The final few notes ended abruptly, evidently in expectation of an encore.

There is no doubt that Touré is a seasoned performer and virtuosic guitarist with a powerful command of his audience and a seemingly infinite well of creativity at his roots, which is why I couldn’t help but wonder why Touré didn’t seem to be exerting much energy into his performance. Was it the intimate, seated venue, which, compared to the hipster underground dance club stages Touré graces in Mali, lacks some sort of electricity? Maybe the odd twenty minutes between sets stunting the momentum? Perhaps it is that Touré lacks a bit of the patience, charisma and feel of the dessert blues sound without straying too far away from it outside of collaborations with other artists. Or maybe it is that audiences are witnessing Touré evolve a way to stay within the genre his fans expect to hear while also distinguishing himself from his family lineage. Whatever the reason, and however it may read, Touré remains a dynamic and dextruous artist worth watching.

clip: 42 Strings performing “Middle Passage” @ the Southbank Center 07/01/2016

Jarabi – 42 Strings

African traditional performed by 42 Strings recorded by Basile Koechlin at the SOAS Recording Studio in London; March 31st, 2016

Playlist – 42 Strings live @ the Duke of Hamilton, March 26th, 2016

February 15th

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Come celebrate World Radio Day with Althea SullyCole’s new project with Zheng player 李牧祺: 42 Strings! https://www.facebook.com/events/488794647957994/

The event is FREE and will be held at SOAS, London WC1H 0XG, in the Brunei Gallery.

Date: Friday 15 February 2016
Doors open: 15:00 (3:00 pm) – 20:00 (8:00 pm)
Admission: FREE – get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/world-radio-day-london-seminar-and-trade-fair-tickets-20702241963

 

January 23rd

wordsthattravel

 

Althea is pleased to announce that she will be performing at the first of three installments of “Words that Travel,” a multimedia event that aims to showcase the wonderful and rich diversity within the African literary genre.

The event will be held at SOAS, University of London in the Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT) and the Junior Common Room (JCR).

Date: Saturday 23 January 2016
Doors open: 12.00 noon
Admission: FREE

The full programme will be published on the Afrikult. website (www.afrikult.com) in January. Afrikult. is also currently crowdfunding for the event series, please help where you can: https://soas.hubbub.net/p/afrikult