“You are very lovely people,” says Nuru Kane with a huge grin as he surveys his dancing, clapping, chanting audience. “When we next go on tour we are going to start it right here!” And he points two long index fingers to the stage under his feet.
This is good news for the crowd, who are pretty warmed up by this point – and the intensity of their reaction confirms that Kane has won them over completely. It’s good news as well for the people of Rye and its environs, who have been treated since last autumn to an eclectic series of live performances at The School Creative Centre, and are showing their appreciation by packing out the house each time.
Nuru Kane was a smart choice for the second of this year’s shows at The School. His effortless blend of the sounds and rhythms of west and north Africa with reggae, blues and jazz was keenly received by the mixes of age and style on the floor (there were children dancing as well as their parents and a sprinkling of grandparents). And everyone appeared to be entirely wrapped up in the intoxicating sounds produced by Kane and his band, Bayefall Gnawa.
Using traditional African instruments as well as a more modern electric guitar, the four well-dressed multi-instrumentalists on the stage cheerfully and effortlessly switched weapons between songs, giving each piece of music a mood and character of its own. Thanks to an impressively powerful sound system and some expert engineering, every instrument’s voice was clear and perfectly balanced – from the growl of Kane’s guimbri (a three-stringed Moroccan bass) and the boom of the calabash to the delicate and hypnotic strings of the kora – and none of it was too loud.
But overarching every tune – tempo and melody notwithstanding – was a sense of simple joy and liberation that had most of the audience up and dancing throughout the set. This is life-affirming music, songs that make you happy, and there was a tangible sense that everyone in the room felt they were part of something special.
The evening’s support was provided by Vocal Explosion, a 30-piece choir drawn from singers based along the south coast from Brighton to Rye, led by the charismatic Juliet Russell. Discreetly accompanied by a three-piece band, this strong collection of voices belted out a superb set of gospel, deep blues and spiritual tunes, including one or two of Russell’s own compositions. Favourites on the local scene, Vocal Explosion was a perfect warm-up to the global sounds provided by Nuru Kane – indeed, six of its members joined Kane for a spontaneous and accomplished contribution of backing vocals half-way through his set.
This was a truly magical evening – and if Kane lives up to his promise and returns to The School sometime in the near future, it will be an opportunity for anyone who missed out this time to find out why everyone came out with a smile on their face.
(Full review as sent to The School)