LIVE: Sekcou Keita at London’s Jazz Cafe


Photo Credit: Siobhan Bradshaw

Funnily, Seckou Keita wasn’t someone I was familiar with at all until a few hours before his headline show at Jazz Café August 18th. With a strong love for music originating from Africa, having unintentionally grown up listening to Ghanaian highlife and gospel for early parts of my teenage years. I’ve recently wanted to delve into music originating from other parts of the continent, listening to music outside of popular Afrobeats or Highlife which I’ve grown so used to, and step out of my comfort zone.

Learning of Seckou’s nearly 20-year long career in music I thought his headline show would bring in crowds from different generations, so I found myself taking in his performance as much as the company around me. It was a great to be around people so absorbed and engrossed to a man truly at one with his instrument, playing with nothing but pure joy and appreciation.

Seckou Keita is one of some Kora players in the world. A beautifully crafted wooden instrument with 22 tightly stretched strings. The delicate sounds radiating from Seckou’s Kora had the crowd completely stunned to a pensive silence for moments throughout the evening. The tone of the Kora can be best compared to the Harp, perhaps unassuming to some but can definitely stir some deep emotion to any listener.

‘If Only I Knew’ was the first time Seckou had the chance to exercise his vocals. Sung in his native tongue, Seckou explained the song to be inspired by a message his grandfather and mentor said to him when he was young, after a dream of his future he didn’t understand. Nostalgia seemed to ooze feeling into his music, from his voice to the melancholic sounds of the Kora.


Photo credit: Siobhan Bradshaw

However, the graceful transition to one of Seckou’s most notable tracks, ‘1677’ stirred a different kind of sentiment in the crowd. Influenced by the tragic and fatal war between the Goa people and the Portuguese during the period of colonisation in Senegal during the 1600. With that in mind, the eerie breaks in between the jolting, elevating tempo build from the Kora was even more touching throughout the song as the crowd collectively held to a heart-wrenching silence.

Approaching the last half hour of his set, Seckou’s closed with Gambian Multi-Instrumentalist, Suntou Susso who played alongside him with a makeshift Congo sounding drum. Suntou’s quick hands on the drum brought a liveliness, and added a subtle tenor underlay to Seckou’s previously unaccompanied Kora. The two were in complete harmony, going back and forth between each other, raising the tempo so effortlessly all whilst smiling in absolute delight. Rounding off the evening on a high was a befitting ending to the night as their last track was met with raucous applause and screams of excitement. I may not have known Seckou Keita before this evening, but I certainly won’t be forgetting that show.

Seckou is raising money for the ACLT Chartiy who help support patients through bone marrow and blood organ donation. Click here to donate

LIVE: Azekel At London’s Meltdown Festival

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Legendary music professional Nile Rodgers hosted and curated London’s 26th edition of Meltdown festival which included a host of extremely talented singers, and musicians over the course of the 9 days. Over the course of the festival, Rodgers blended a deliberate mixture of his favourite artists, both old and new, and on the fifth day, gave the Queen Elizabeth center’s Purcell Room evening slot to one of the UK’s most gracious singers, Azekel Adesuyi. Growing up in a capital as richly diverse as London seems to have helped Azekel establish a range of influences from soul and R&B, to electronic and Pop.

As the night began, Azekel’s warming and almost shy presence met the slightly cautious cheers and screams from the crowd as some didn’t seem to know whether stand or remain seated. However, Azekel seemed to easily settle the crowd afterwards, reeling off the first two tracks of his set before casually introducing himself and his backing drummer and guitarist.

Azekel 1

One of the poignant moments during the night was Azekel’s passionate solo track, which was an immersive acoustic performance involving only his voice and the silky string play of his guitarist. It was the first-time listeners could fully lose themselves in tune with Azekel’s tenacious vocal range and emphatic singing ability, which was able to come to the forefront during this piece. His soothing, delicate voice captivated the audience for the duration of his standout performance. leaving half the room in awe, eager eyed, hanging onto every note with an intense focus for its entirety, and just when the last few lyrics were sung, Azekel was greeted by raucous applause and a standing ovation; a brilliant moment.

Going to live concerts you are always hopeful of hearing new music from the artist, and Azekel went into the second half of his hour long set to test a couple new tracks he’d been working on titled, ‘Thrills’ and ‘Freeway’.  Similarly matched in pace, the quick succession between the two new tracks brought an engrossing switch in tempo with a grooving bassline and scintillating pockets for drums to takeover and elevate the track.

Azekel closed the evening with the tranquil swirling grooves for one of his standout debut album tracks – ‘Wetty Betty’. There’s a beautiful cruising in the car in sunshine feel to the track, the wonderful chord progression and spinning effects surrounding Azekel’s vocals during chorus makes hook so catchy.

Check out his debut album Father below:

LIVE: Speaking In Sound, Something London Needs More Of


This photo is courtesy of Touching Bass

Nestled in the cosy humble space; Brilliant Corners, took place the Touching Bass crew’s following ‘Speaking in Sound’ session with Dego. Touching Bass consider themselves to be ‘soul disciples’, aiming to forward black-oriented music with soul, through discussion and music. They’re a collective whose movements and key message resonates’ well with inspired sound. At a time, where London’s creative culture is being disrupted with growing gentrification in some areas, and with creativity through music and arts being important for many young generations’ in London. It’s important London has collectives like Touching Bass; to stimulate and showcase the foundations of music and creativity in London. It’s what makes these “Speaking in Sound” sessions so unique, and, to have a wonderfully talented musician like Dego there, could do nothing but inspire.

Words such as visionary and forward-thinker, have been ushered under Dego’s name. Those familiar with his work, wont be quick to disagree with those labels. But those who are not familiar with his work, should know Dego has been meticulously producing music for over 20 years. Growing up in a household amongst many reggae, hip hop, jazz records, he sights in the interview – it was from those sounds, which laid the foundations for his early interests and work. However, with the dance music scene growing steadily in the 1990s, be fittingly, his first releases were heavily influenced by DnB, jungle, and later; techno. Which he produced as part of the 4hero dance collective movement in 1990s. His later work in 2000s, led to the resurrection of his 2000BLACK label, which gained popular acclaim and seemed to carve out a niche sound, with a concoction of house, techno and jazz. Some people view the early 2000s as the rise of the “broken beat” style production in the London scene, led by Dego amongst others.

This photo is for promotional use only

 Anyway, anyone who’s been to Brilliant corners, will understand how sonically gifting the venue is. It’s a very contemplative and unassuming venue, with beautifully vibrant moon-shaped lanterns hanging down from the ceiling. The session Comfortably accommodated 50-60 people, with chairs ideally arranged in semi-circle shaped rows, and a cosy cushioned seating area, adding to the ambience and collective feel of the event. The evening began with Touching bass’ very own Alex Rita showing off her latest collection of records, her groovy afro influenced records settled listeners easily, as her selection, seemed as intricately selected, as her blending. What followed of course, was the main discussion with the man himself; Dego.

This photo is courtesy of Briliant Corners

It’s difficult to go in much detail of the discussion itself, as I wouldn’t want to miss paraphrase anything.  But hearing Dego answering questions so unapologetically, and honestly was encouraging. Having never seen Dego perform live before, but having been an appreciative listener of his work, it was finally nice to put a face to his music. Dego warmed into the discussion and grew in confidence, as he spoke more freely and comfortably as time went on. Discussing topics around the inspiration for each of his albums, his main influencers growing up, and generally his journey to where he is now. It was a very light-hearted discussion, and although he’s a respected and revered character by some, it was easy to warm to him. In a lot of cases, when you go to a music event, there’s always a slight barrier between you and the artist you’re seeing, but these open discussion, help to pull away those barriers. It allows enthusiastic creatives to ask questions, and pick the mind of someone with a lot more experience within the industry. It invokes a more meaningful sense of inspiration.

Anyway, as time went, everyone began to respond well to Dego’s casual, nonchalant manner, and the number of questions asked from audience, meant we ended going over time! Nevertheless, as promised, Dego still had the energy to show off some of his vast record collection. Once the lights dimmed down, we were treated to some beautiful old soulful, jazz and disco records, mostly from the 80s and 90s. There were some hints of more broken beat tracks which had inspired some of his own productions in the early 2000s, and which earned him the label; “icon” (as Errol respectfully referred to Dego as, in the introduction). Dego was quick to humbly reject that notion, and rather funnily reiterated that, at the end of his discussion. It was a lovely, immersive experience involving discussion, as well as music. It’s the kind of unique experience London needs more of, as there’s a lot of inspiration to find from artists’ such as Dego, and I look forward to the next session.

Check out the Touching Bass Afro chronicles Volume one:



LIVE: Keeping Up Appearances: Leftfoot x Shadow City

There’s definitely a sense of intrigue and excitement, when Shadow City and Leftfoot collaborate together for an evening of music. The two Birmingham brands strive to showcase live musicians and DJs with a diverse taste for music, to Birmingham‘s growing underground music scene. Those familiar with Shadow City, will have noticed their elevation and dedication to growing the foundations they laid back in 2011, when they first started. They recently introduced the very talented live electronic musician ‘Ross From Friends’, who’s been enjoying a recent rise in to the electronic music scene. Moreover, last summer saw Shadow City host a stage at one of the nation’s more recognisable small boutique festival; Farr Festival, bringing in the likes of ‘Chaos in the CBD’ and ‘Booka shade’ to name a few.
Meanwhile, Leftfoot have pioneered and paved the way for more leftfield and soulful nights in Birmingham, ever since their inception back in 2000. They’re a brand which have always aimed to bring in particularly talented and special artists; welcoming musicians such as, Roy Ayers, Mount Kimbie, Pimp Sessions, Jazzie B and Mr Scruff to name a few. Leftfoot and Shadow City collaborations in the past, have showcased DJs with more of an experimental and varied music selection, which, in many ways has challenged Birmingham’s quite established tech-house scene. So, to hear Shadow city and Leftfoot were collaborating again, we were keen to see what DJs like; Gilles Peterson, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Palms Trax and Quantic, had to offer.

Across Birmingham’s highly acclaimed nightclub; Rainbow venues, were three rooms of music, with each room expressing a significant feature as the last. Rainbow’s rooftop terrace offers a skyline view of Birmingham’s city center, something which any nightclub would be dying to have. The slightly quieter music and sitting area present a slower, less hectic feel to the nightclub. Although, the impressive crowd drawn throughout the evening, was more than to down the quality of talented local Birmingham DJs. The terrace was predominately held down by one of Birmingham’s younger independent parties, born out of a desire to showcase more live, soulful music. They too, have developed a great relationship with Leftfoot, given their similar passions, and as a result opened their doors to some fantastic electronic producers such as; Harvey Sutherland, Max Graef, Chaos in the CBD, Athlete Whippet and Henry Wu. Moodfix  resident; Tilly, eased listeners perfectly in to the night, amongst Birmingham’s skyline back drop. Moodfix head honcho; Jack Barber and fellow resident Lewis Ryan, did very well to draw in an edger crowd in the middle of evening, amongst the big names in the Warehouse and Blackbox. One song which naturally had everyone singing towards the end of the night was Midland’s anthem ‘Final Credits’, a highlight of 2016.


This photo is courtesy of Leftfood LTD

However, in spite the beautiful setting and talented local DJs on the terrace – downstairs, was the focal point of interest. Rainbows famous intimate space; Blackbox, characterised by its low ceilings and immersive feel, played host to Worldwide FM and Brownswood founder; Gilles Peterson. Gilles’ cultured the crowd with a selection of scincilating records, influenced from around the globe. Warming the crowd with some feel-good funk n soul beats had everyone enticed, as Gilles’ introduction signalled the first big headliner on the bill for the night. As his set went on, Gilles’ truly then began to showcase his range, bringing in some African influenced techno characterised by the consistent low and high pitch congo drums, whilst also blending jungle and dubstep. His range kept listeners entertained and didn’t disperse anyone’s interest, a sign of a great selector.


This photo is courtesy of Leftfoot LTD

Following on from Gilles’ eclectic taste, is a toll order for any DJ, but Motor City Drum Ensemble (MCDE), perfectly settled and soothed the crowd in the Blackbox, following on from Gilles. MCDE’s raw cuts album back in 2010, showcased what he was all about, bridging the gap between house music, with soul and jazz, and his set, really reflected those vibes. His set rarely faded from interest, consistently swinging back and forth between heavily instrumentally sampled house tracks, with some jazz and soul influence, which he often used to settle the crowd, from the more intense classic house tracks, and the occasional drumcode techno. Techno rarely fails to disappoint. The small blend of techno stirred the crowd to a frenzy at times, as it wasn’t expected. I cast my mind back to an interview with Motor City saying he flicking back to some techno generally goes down well.

Closing the evening, can sometimes be a difficult task for a DJ, as the crowd never really want the night to end. Screams of ‘one more tune’, are a common theme of most raves towards the end of night, and so it was the task of Palms Trax and Quantic, to leave a lasting memory for the Birmingham crowd. Quantic is a phenomenally talented musician with an extensive ability to play many instruments. Palms Trax’s, eclectic taste for worldly sounds from Latin America, and Africa, with the added attention to experimental electronic music, has made him a point of interest within the industry. With two DJs clashing in both rooms, it was Palms trax who seemed to draw the greater  crowd. Palms trax’s delicate, smooth transitions of melodic, banging techno, for the first half hour of his set, eased the keen ravers into his set. His smoothness hooked the crowd tremendously for the first half of hour, until eventually dropping Henrik Schwarz remix of ‘Kuar’, which sensationally brought the party back life. It’s catchy, rhythmic Portuguese lyrics resonating throughout song, along to a jumpy hard bassline , are hard not to enjoy. The introduction of Kuar, certainly reminded the room that the party wasn’t over!

What’s impressive about the DJs mentioned, is their cultured taste, and curiosity to bring an eclectic blend of inspiring music to their sets. Palms and Gilles in particular, have shown their broad music knowledge from previous sets, and we can always count on them to continue.