Live reviews

Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan, Shree Devi Talab Mandir, Jalandhar City, Punjab, 25-29 December 2008

[by Ken Hunt, London] India has a long tradition of music festivals of the classical kind – often called music conferences – to compare with few places on the planet. Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan showed off everything that is typical and revealing about Indian audiences’ attitudes, including their waywardness, to its art music traditions. The December 2008 festival was its 133rd gathering in an unbroken sequence since 1875. The annual festival takes place in deepest winter. There were few concessions to comfort and that sense of musical austerity works brilliantly for a festival grounded in dhrupad – one of the more austere forms of Hindustani art music. People come wrapped in shawls, untold layers of clothing and carrying snacks. Tellingly, it is still a free festival.

30. 1. 2009 |

Szilvia Bognár, Ágnes Herczku and Ági Szalóki – “World music from Hungary”

H’ART Festival, Centre of Contemporary Art, Glasgow, Scotland, 8 November 2008

[by Ken Hunt, London] Szilvia Bognár, Ágnes Herczku and Ági Szalóki’s album Szájról szájra – first released in Hungary in 2007 but invisible to the outside world until early in 2008 – ranks as one of the benchmark albums to emerge from the pan-European folk scene this decade. It is a master-class in the subtlety and power of interwoven voices as well as being a torrent of lessons on how to draw on traditional folk music and make it both now and timeless. But the wondrousness of Szájról szájra only really comes across in live performance when you match lips to sound.

13. 11. 2008 |

Tom Constanten, Boom Boom Club @ Sutton Utd FC, Sutton, Surrey, England, 22 May 2005

[by Ken Hunt, London] To declare an interest, Tom Constanten and I are addicts of bilingual punning and are old friends. Indeed we started our correspondence when I lived in Sutton, a town that I have no reason to return to in many years. As opener for Jefferson Starship, the audience got a magic show of multivalenced allusion, illusion and wordplay from the former keyboardist of the Grateful Dead during their wonderful experimental period as a septet in the late 1960s that produced Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa and Live Dead.

4. 11. 2008 |

Arun Ghosh, Indo Electronica Stage, London Mela, Gunnersbury Park, London 10 August 2008

[by Ken Hunt, London] The sixth London Mela returned to its spiritual homeland on the borders of Hounslow and Ealing to the west of London once again and once again it was a celebration cum fair, which is all mela means in several of the subcontinent’s languages. The blurb on the front of the programme proclaimed: “Eight zones with urban, classical and experimental music, DJs, circus, dance, visual arts, comedy, children’s area, food from around the world and a giant funfair.”

15. 8. 2008 |

Palya Bea Quintet, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London

[by Ken Hunt, London] “There’s a lot of dancing in her music,” I say to the Hungarian dancer sitting next to me when the concert finishes. My observation about the performance has nothing to do with Beáta Palya as a dancer, little to do with her swaying or rockin’ in rhythm as she sings and everything to do with the way she sings. In a manner of speaking, Bea Palya sings from the haunches and the hips an awful lot. And what and how she sings is exceptional. The music she makes is Hungarian folk-crossed jazz or Hungarian jazz-crossed folk with other elements stirred in – chanson, for example, befitting her role in Tony Gatlif’s film Transylvania in which she plays the part of the cabaret chanteuse – that’s chantoozie in American-English.

27. 7. 2008 |

The Green Ray, The Dog House, Kennington Cross, London, 22 June 2008

[by Ken Hunt, London] Don’t you just love the thrill of unpublicised gigs? So long, that is, that the act delivers music worthy of the buzz and you attend. This nicely semi-secret Green Ray gig ticked all the boxes and more. The Dog House announcement just promised “psychedelic West Coast sounds” and an unnamed “special guest guitarist – all the way from San Francisco, the man who played Monterrey and Wood Stock Festivals”. Yup, two spelling mistakes in 18 printed words. The Green Ray are still improvising and pursuing that ol’ psychedelic Grail. Were they an American band they’d probably get saddled with the description ‘jam band’.

26. 6. 2008 |

An Evening of Ragas, Barbican, London, 4 June 2008

[by Ken Hunt, London] The literature in the Barbican’s foyer called it “An evening of Ragas with legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka.” But it was far more than that. It also said, “Ravi Shankar – Farewell to Europe tour.” The sadness lay in the leave-taking. It meant that a good number of people attending in the audience were there to be able to say – at some stage later – that they had seen him in concert. It happens. It happened with Frank Sinatra and it happens with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.

16. 6. 2008 |

Indo-Jazzwise, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London

[by Ken Hunt, London] Well before the first of Jazzwise‘s sequence of Indo-Jazz-related pieces began running, before the first interview was done, the idea of delivering more than column inches formed part of the discussions. And it happened, thanks also to the concert promoters, Serious. “Dedicated to the new directions in Indo-jazz ,” as Jazzwise‘s editor Jon Newey put it from the stage, it happened over two house-full nights, on 29 and 30 May 2008 in the cavern-like rather than cavernous basement of a pizza chain’s Soho jazz den.

14. 6. 2008 |

Goldfrapp, Royal Festival Hall, London, 18 April 2008

[by Ken Hunt, London] Goldfrapp’s fourth album Seventh Tree (2008) was reviewed in several places in the British press along the lines of it being “psychedelic folk”. Reviews came with a sprinkling of words such as “pastoral approach” and, oh the joys of semi-accurate quotations, “middle of the public bridleway”. It was the dangled carrot of talk about psychedelic folk that attracted me. Sort of. Not because I am an acolyte of psychedelia’s darker folk arts. I had a decade when editors told me how important every twee and fey, post-Wicker Man manifestation of “psychedelic folk” was. It drove me up the wall and “psychedelic folk” still turns me itchy-twitchy.

4. 5. 2008 |

Martin Simpson with special guest Chris Wood

[by Ken Hunt, London] You’d be hard-pressed to find a finer and more authoritative curator for a programme of folk music than Shirley Collins. After all, she is one of the singers who poured ideas into Britain’s second Folk Revival. Under the banner Folk Roots New Routes (a title lifted from her and Davy Graham’s 1964 duo album), she curated the five-day season of folk-themed concerts at London’s Southbank.

6. 4. 2008 |

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