Tunde Jegede & NOK Orchestra
The second instalment of the Salon Concert series is timely. Into The Night, a major exhibition at the Barbican centre is coming to an end and the far less well known Emmanuel Church in Holloway, north London is giving a prime example of what was celebrated in that show, namely global club culture reaching back to the early 20th century. The Mbari in Ibadan, Nigeria was a particular highlight and West Africa is the focus for tonight’s event. This is a free gig with a strong local community vibe not dissimilar from the aforesaid venue that was a hub for artists and common folk alike.
Composer, kora player, cellist and curator Tunde Jegede has been collaborating with Lagos-based NOK Orchestra for several years and together they showcase impressive versatility to a responsive audience in a genial atmosphere. European classical music has been present in Africa for centuries and a repertoire which features Bach and Handel [The Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba] as well as a number of popular high-life numbers makes perfect sense. The movement between different genres is anything but stilted; the ten-piece ensemble’s handling of changing pulse and harmony impressive.
Above all the vigour and strength of the strings, occasionally augmented by flute and trumpet, really comes through, at times suggesting a larger group. Jegede’s own pieces such as Let The Elements Sing are an engrossing demonstration of the skilled bridge building between African and European traditions that have largely defined his career since his 1995 debutLamentation. Yet the concert hits a peak with an utterly spellbinding version of Joromi, a skipping charmer of a song that underlines the ‘Motherland’ roots of calypso, and to which Sir Victor Uwaifo may well have raised a glass of palm wine, had he been present. With the venue laying on a fine spread after the gig there is also an opportunity for the flock to gather at the table and break bread. Formality falls away as we are fed and watered. And the building becomes a salon.
Kevin Le Gendre