By universal acclaim, the last in the series of concerts comprising the 13th London African Music Festival was also the best. Each concert has featured a singer or musician from a different African country, and last night that country was Mauritania. One anticipated something ‘ethnic’, perhaps based on Arabic or Berber modes using unfamiliar musical scales, which would be interesting but perhaps not very accessible to members of the audience who were not from that part of the world. The opposite turned out to be the case. Although mostly sung in his native Arabic dialect, Daby Touré’s songs were instantly accessible to an audience which last night consisted mostly of Westerners.
The show began with a set by Touré on his own, accompanying himself on electric guitar, an instrument on which he is clearly a virtuoso. His voice has an ethereal quality, soaring up to wonderfully high notes, with judicious use of echo. He provided his own percussion on the guitar, as well as melody. The show would have been great as a solo performance.
The second and longer set, however, saw Touré joined by his band, a cosmopolitan combo comprising keyboards, bass and drums, played respectively by an Italian, a Frenchman and a Spaniard. Encouraged by Touré, the audience were soon on their feet, and many stayed on their feet for most of the set, dancing to the infectious rhythms. The musicianship was superb, one of the highlights for me being the drum solos augmented by the percussive effects produced by Touré on his guitar. I thought the drummer, wearing a suit and tie, was really cool!
At the end of a long set, the audience would not let the band get away, and they were called back for an encore in which they played three more numbers, much to the pleasure of everyone there. What a pity that there were not more people there! The auditorium seats 150, but there were plenty of vacant seats. The Culture Space is right next door to Canada Water station on the Jubilee Line and Overground, so it is easy to get to. Of course, there is so much going on in London that it is hard to stand out among the crowd. But with an outstanding performance like the one last night, the African Music Festival certainly deserves to be a sell-out.