Monday, April 24, 2006


I'm still feeling extremely grateful for having been able to witness The Soothsayers at The Phoenix on Friday, supported by 3 Daft Monkeys (people I knew from travelling in West Cornwall). The Monkeys are great fun, but The Soothsayers were a total musical epiphany for me. I'm forever indebted to Stevie P (he and Jonno used to play in a band with Robin the trumpeter in London in the 80's) for bringing them to my attention. They play a kind of Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat, but more dubbed out and psychedelic, more multi-dimensional (I put some Fela on the next morning and was disappointed by how 'thin' it sounded in comparison).

The SoothsayersZoe Rahman
some Soothsayers and keyboardist Zoe Rahman

There's a two-piece, razor-sharp horn section and an electric guitarist who mostly held down an ultra-tight groove, but, when given the chance to shine, played like a sort of no-wave Ernest Ranglin (adding an angular, spooky African Headcharge "future dub"-type sound). Reggae producer Nick Mannaseh was doing an excellent job dubbing everything from the sounddesk, effectively a member of the band for this peformance. Particularly amazing was keyboardist Zoe Rahman (I think she's the saxophonist's sister, an award-winning jazz pianist who was guesting with them on this occasion). NO dodgy keyboard sounds! All my favourite keyboard sounds, in fact - she kept painting these beautiful psychedelic textures all over the sound (could have been slightly louder in the mix, I felt). She did a melodica solo reminiscent of "Any Colour You Like", and when the band did give her space to tear it up on the keyboard (a Roland RD-700) she just turned my head inside out. I haven't experienced anything like it since Omar Sosa played here.

The overall sound seemed to meld elements of all my favourite music from the early-mid 70's into one seamless whole - African groove was the main ingredient, but with echoes of electric-period Miles Davis, all the best Jamaican dub, early 70's "Dark Star", the mellowest 70's you can swim around in.

The bass player, if you squinted, even looked like a young Haile Selassie (from where I was, anyway). He and the percussionist/singer Adesose Wallace were smiling beatifically throughout most of the set, and Zoe kept breaking into her own ecstatic smile (almost as if she kept realising how amazing she/they were) which had become almost permanent by the end of the set.

Go and see this band!!

Note: I just found out from Paul Giblin of Future Sound of Exeter that they lost £700 on this one, which is a real shame (there was a respectable crowd, but that might have been because no one was taking tickets on the door). FSOE deserve major respect for making this (and so many other wonderful events) happen. I only recently discovered that they operate as a non-profit organisation. It was actually Paul who originally puy me in touch with Philip Robinson when I first moved to Exeter, leading to the creation of Children of the Drone.


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