Senegalese kora player Kadialy Kouyaté climaxed the Muzikstan mini-festival in Balsall Heath. Martin Longley danced instead of taking notes…
The Old Print Works
Muzikstan was a mini-fest within the larger Celebrating Sanctuary season, bringing together artists from divergent rootsy traditions. The Old Print Works provided a good example of how, with basic internal embellishments such as mood lighting, comfortable sofas, a makeshift bar and nostril-tingling samosas, a bare factory environment could be transformed into an cosy music space. There was even a small bakery situated on the long corridor journey to the tolilet facilities, though this was happenstance rather than integral design.
The headlining act was Senegalese kora player and griot (storyteller by heritage) Kadialy Kouyaté, leading a four-piece band. During the previous weekend’s Sanctuary all-dayer he’d performed solo and in duo, but this was another facet, revealing the kora as a lead instrument, backed by guitar, bass and drums. Kouyaté’s silvery striations were comparably evocative, but amplified with a cutting edge, shimmering across a thumping and pumping electric foundation.
Most of the solo features were played by the leader, but there were phases of interlocking lead guitar parts, along with some pliant basslines and snapcracking drum parts. Most of the tunes maintained a vigorous forward momentum, but a couple of them stood out as being notably melodic in their repeated hooklines.
Three or four numbers before the end of the hour long set, the climax arrived, when a ritualistic rhythmic repetition pushed the dancing crowd into full trance mode. Not so much a set of light, shade or variation, but more of a mission towards steadily-entangling hypnosis.
A later climax was provided by veteran local dj Zuppa Inglese, spinning Afro-sounds that took in Nigerian Afrobeat and Congolese soukous, stopping off in Bollywood on the way.