Monday, March 31, 2008

Sa Mon Di at The Gulbenkian

There's been a series of monthly Tuesday evening musical events at in the Gulbenkian Theatre bar at UKC. I caught part of the last one without realising quite what it was (Will, Ed and Ginge singing folksongs they'd learned in their wanderings around the country, as described at the bottom of this entry...incidentally the singer-songwriter who followed them and who I faied to identify turned out to be Chris Wood). They're calling the series "K-City" for some reason. Fortunately, I was alerted to the fact that Justin (multi-instrumentalist, papier-mâché artist extraordinaire and generally good bloke who tried to sell me a saz a while back) was playing in a Ghanaian highlife/Afrobeat band called Sa Mon Di this time (last Tuesday, 25/03). The flyer said "Kofi Dako's 8-piece band", but it turned out to be a stripped down 5-piece. They're from London, Brighton and Whitstable, so it's a bit difficult to get everyone together with a band like that. I later heard that they were a 12-piece at one point! In any case, this incarnation were utterly brilliant - they played two sets, and there was absolutely nothing about it that I could find fault with. Justin's playing trumpet alongside Tony on sax, both with plenty of space for freaky solos - super-solid dubbed out rhythm section, and Kofi on electric guitar and vocals.

Sa Mon Di

Justin was (and occasionally still is, I think) in Whitstable's almost-legendary Happy Accidents, and I have a feeling Tony was/is as well. This brought back memories of wild gigs at the Whitstable Assembly Rooms (which had a wonderful sprung dancefloor, hosted gigs with a loose anarchic atmosphere and was unfortunately torn down for reasons of "development". A real shame that place isn't there anymore, as it'd have been a great place to jump around to Sa Mon Di. The atmosphere in The Gulbenkian bar was a lot more restrained. The organisers had provided seating (in clusters, rather than rows, thankfully), which allowed for greater inhibition. You could just tell that almost everyone wanted to be up on their feet dancing, but hardly anyone was. And the average age of the audience was surprisingly high - where were all the students? A fantastic band like this, for £5, and thousands of young people within a stonesthrow of the venue - I don't know...

Kofi suddenly produced a small wooden Ghanaian flute at one point, the band went into a kind of dub rhythm and he unleashed the craziest solo...WOW! And he's got such a strong, uplifting voice and general presence, makes a whole range of sounds on his guitar, from the etherial to an almost punky electric crunch. Most of what they played would be classified as "High Life", I suppose (not a genre I've really explored), with touches of Afrobeat/Afro-jazz, but there were a couple of straight-up reggae songs which were just MIGHTY - blazing horns, fat bass, intricate drums, totally righteous vibes. Definitely the best band I've seen since I've been back around Canterbury. Tony told me afterwards that they usually have another horn, a Hammond organ and some backing vocals. I really hope they can keep this band together!


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