Give Me The Night

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Into The Night
[London, Barbican]

By Kevin Le Gendre
In recent years reports of the death of club culture may have been greatly exaggerated, but it can be argued that mega emporiums and superstar DJs no longer attract as many stomping feet as they did a decade ago. Into The Night is a timely reminder of the deep roots of these after dark churches where people congregate to praise the sound of music and the sight of each other. The exhibition shines a light on iconic cabarets reaching back to the ‘20s in Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Harlem, New York.
Most eye catching and mind opening is the Mbari in Ibadan, Nigeria, which underlines in no uncertain terms the extremely inter-disciplinarian nature of African culture. Music, opera, poetry and visual art came together in one space crackling with creative energy, attracting, unsurprisingly, a steady stream of intellectuals as well as revelers. Footage of ecstatic gigs at the club in its early ‘60s heyday is enthralling, but what tops that is a live performance by pianist and composer Dele Sosimi next to the Barbican gallery bar. The London-based Nigerian, revered for his work with Fela Anikulapo Kuti, is, along with Tony Allen, one of the most important contemporary keepers of the Afrobeat flame. He knows how to stoke all the fire in the groove.
Here Sosimi is a revelation. He presents several Fela tunes in a stripped down acoustic rather than scaled up electric context, a game plan that really brings to the fore the haunting melodic axis of Sorrow, Tears And Blood and the slyly skipping rhythmic carriage of Lady. Ably backed by the super steady double bassist
Suman Joshi Sosimi wrings maximum feeling from a sturdy upright, playing relatively spare chords on a number of high-life pieces before attacking more robustly on an anthem such as Water No Get Enemy, on which his transposition of the soaring horn lines to the keyboard works particularly well. Lending yet more character to the performance is actor Theo Ogundipe, who supplements Sosimi’s own recollections of Nigerian nightlife, from the joy of togetherness to the fear of police raids, by a nicely pitched reading of texts by Christopher Okigbo and John Pepper Clark among others.
It is a memorable club night. There is dancing with words as well as with sounds.

 Continues until January 19.