Fri 1 April 2011
Ten Days on the Island
Mim Suleiman sings like the sun – her voice shone, as she raised her arms out wide, sometimes flicking her black curly hair, dressed in a yellow African gown. Accompanied by Trio Rafiki Jazz, the sound had an ease and pureness of groove, which permeated throughout the City Hall among the smiling groups of ‘Rafiki’, which means friends in Swahili.
Connected to our Ten Days Island festival, is the island of Zanzibar (semi-autonomous region of Tanzania) in East Africa, which was the birthplace of Mim Suleiman. While Suleiman linked us strongly to her origins with song, East African drums and influence, the repertoire gathered musicians, instruments and sounds from further afield, pulsing into a free-flowing easy-going dance vibe.
Suleiman introduced the kora (originally from West Africa) player, Kadialy Kouyate as the “sexiest machine you’ve ever seen”, and while he seemed uninterested in yielding this persona, his presence and the ease with which he played certainly was, though I’m not sure ‘machine’ is the description I’d use.
Guery Tibirica played the berimbau, a single string percussion instrument that looks a bit like an elongate bow with a gourd resonator at one end. It’s Brazilian, with African origins, and is synonymous with capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art. For the final number Tibirica joined the comfortably spacious dance floor, with his high kicks and quick leg sweeps into a spinning dance with lots of hand to floor contact ground acrobatics.
The only white skin in the line-up was bass guitar, cello banjo and percussion player Tony‘tk’Koni. His steady, funky and again easy rhythm was seamless, though his leopard skin safari suit raised a few eyebrows.
Suleiman sang in English, Fula and Kiswahili (her native tongue), and sang a familiar and favourite song by Angélique Kidjo.
The vibrance of the music largely overcame the acoustic challenges of the City Hall, but unfortunately the deeper subtleties were missed, but thankfully it wasn’t too loud. Most of all it was a warm and very friendly night.