REVIEW – Vieux Farka Touré, Voodoo Rooms, Tue 7th Feb

*****

“If you can’t go to Africa, Africa comes to you.”

So says Samba Sene, speaking between numbers during his support slot at the Voodoo Rooms. And he’s right.

Tonight we’re treated to the rhythms, emotion and joy of some top quality world music in Edinburgh, courtesy of Senegalese Samba and main act Vieux Farka Touré from Mali.

More normally fronting his full band Diwan, tonight Samba Sene sits on the stage with an acoustic guitar, accompanied by a single musician on an African mandolin. Together, they perform a set of low-key, personal numbers, dealing with Samba’s loves & losses. Samba’s playing and singing is emotive and subtle, as his rich voice effortlessly fills the Ballroom to an appreciative audience.

Proving he’s as comfortable in an intimate and personal setting as he is when leading Diwan through their gloriously upbeat numbers, Samba is a pleasure to watch and listen to, particularly when he wins over the crowd with his song devoted to his now hometown of Edinburgh.

Vieux Farka Touré is recognised as one of the finest guitarists on the world music scene today, and on the strength of tonight’s performance it’s easy to see why. Backed by a bassist and percussionist, his songs are long, hypnotic affairs, weaving their rhythms between the dancing feet of the packed crowd.

The length of the numbers allows Vieux’s musicianship to shine: whether adeptly blurring his fingers in a series of impressive solos; or bouncing his playing off his fellow band members, trading rhythmical snippets of music as if passing a ball between them.

Throughout, Vieux’s obvious passion for the music beams out, as his infectious and joyful stage presence spreads waves of warmth around the room.

Back outside in the cold air of a February evening in Edinburgh, Samba and Vieux have indeed brought a little piece of Africa to us: more than enough to keep us warm all the way home.

Samba Sene and Vieux Farka Touré played at The Voodoo Rooms, Tue 7th Feb

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