An Experiment In Originality: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Live at the Colston Hall
October 29, 2015
Every year Bristol, as well as cities across the UK and elsewhere, celebrates Black History Month in order to recognise and remember important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
Throughout October there are many exhibitions and events to go and see in order for us to learn about the African culture.
The University of the West of England (UWE) hosts many exhibitions and viewings for the public ranging from exhibitions of prominent black figureheads and UWE alumni to screenings relating to black history. The Watershed on Bristol’s harbour-side is also hosting screenings of Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panther: Vanguard of the Revolution; a film documenting a pivotal time for black people in America.
Colston Hall was also hosting events as part of the Black History Month and I was personally lucky enough to be able to attend Malians Bassekou Kouyate’s gig.
Admittedly, I had never heard of Bassekou Kouyate and had only briefly listened to them on YouTube, but after seeing their live performance, they have definitely asserted their unforgettable performance into my mind!
Their gig was held in a smallish venue room in the Colston Hall and evoked the atmosphere of intimacy with the band. The room was busy with excited people itching to see the band, but not uncomfortably busy and there was plenty of room to have a little dance.
My boyfriend and I grabbed a quick beer whilst waiting in anticipation for Bassekou Kouyate to begin playing and when they did we were not disappointed.
Unlike anything I had ever heard and totally unique, the band started to play their native instruments as a woman took over the microphone and started signing hypnotic lyrics to the crowd of bedazzled revellers.
The band play with ngoni’s which fill the room with enchanting sounds. These ngoni’s are string instruments originating in West Africa and hold special historical importance for the people of Mali as a sense of identity. The ngoni is a hollowed out canoe-shaped piece of wood with dried animal skin stretched over it like a drum, and it sounds absolutely beautiful.
As well as having drums and other percussion instruments the band was able to perform some truly wonderful songs and I could see why they were so popular.
Their originality is appealing and refreshing and it is really inspiring to see instruments being played in a true sense of joy in being able to spread the sounds of their native instrument.
I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see them perform and I would recommend seeing them if you see them on the line-up for anything, or if they come to the UK on another tour!