Belá Fleck & Oumou Sangaré at Southbank, London
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of seeing Belá Fleck & Oumou Sangaré play live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Banjo extraordinaire Belá Fleck and Malian songstress Oumou Sangaré first collaborated back in 2005. As documented in the film ‘Throw Down Your Heart’ they met when on a musical trip tracing the roots of the banjo in Africa, Fleck rocked up in Bamako, the beating heart of Sangare’s West African homeland. On Wednesday the duo were joined by a four-strong band; a backing singer, kamalengoni harp, drums and a beast of a bass player (more on that later).
Before the music even began we knew we were in for a treat when Baaba Maal turned up to announce the gig. Then Fleck opened up with an extended acoustic banjo solo, before Oumou and her band joined the stage and ramped up the volume. Their stripped-back performance of the song ‘Djorolen’ was the showstopper. The lyrics speak of the hardships Oumou faced as a young girl providing for her family. Invoking typical Wassoulou imagery she sings ‘The worried songbird, her thoughts go far away’. Here is a video clip of that song:
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