Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Senegal comes to Worcestershire

Amadou Diagne & Group Yakar 

- Live at Worcester Arts Workshop, Worcester, Saturday 29 April

Photo courtesy of Phil Richards (c) 2017
Describing Amadou Diagne as a multi-instrumentalist is something of an understatement. The Senegalese musician switches effortlessly between drums, guitar, kora, djembe and talking drum, all accompanied by his powerful voice. And, as if this didn't offer enough sonic variety for one evening, Amadou was joined by his UK-based five piece band Group Yakar.

The show started with some solo oud playing by Group Yakar's extraordinarily talented bassist Mark Smulian, before keyboards, drums, vocals and electric guitar were added to the mix. Amadou's music incorporates elements of afrobeat, blues, rock, jazz funk, mbalax and West African praise singing. The first set began gently but was rounded off energetically with Amadou taking his mobile from his pocket mid-song, placing it carefully on his djembe and leaping off the stage to dance ecstatically before the audience. Had the organisers been over-optimistic in creating so large a space for dancing between stage and seating? I wondered if the band had found it hard to connect at first with the polite, rather distant audience.

The second set began with Amadou playing solo kora and the music built progressively towards a climax, the complex interplay of the musicians taking us into rockier territory. Dan Pert on electric guitar began to really enjoy himself and even Amadou used some wah-wah effect on his kora. Perhaps the moves looked a bit reticent compared with the fine example set by Amadou, but eventually a few of the good people of Worcester were up and dancing to the Senegalese groove.

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Tony Gillam is Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Wolverhampton, a freelance writer, trainer and musician. He is the author of 'Reflections on Community Psychiatric Nursing' (2002) and 'Creativity, Wellbeing and Mental Health Practice' (2018).