Given that some of the freshest, most exciting music on the planet is currently being made in West Africa, chances to hear it live in this part of the country are all too rare. It was therefore a great treat to witness the Senegalese singer/songwriter Nuru Kane – recently nominated for a Radio 3 World Music Award – and his band Bayefall Gnawa cooking up a storm in the unlikely setting of the Djanogly Theatre for the best part of three hours.
Unusually for a West African musician, Nuru draws many of his influences from the highly rhythmic, almost trance-like Moroccan music known as Gnawa. During some of the longer work-outs, you could almost sense the swirling hubbub of Marrakech’s famous Djamaa El Fna Square, with its story-tellers, snake charmers and performing monkeys. At other times, the hypnotic repetition evoked the Afrobeat sound of the late Fela Kuti.
With a strong emphasis on percussive elements, the band combined rhythmic precision with a delightful looseness of spirit, all tied together by Nuru’s authoritative presence and gentle enthusiasm. Although some of the pastoral delicacy of their recorded work was lost along the way, the sheer visceral thrill of the playing more than made up for it.