World music preview: African Masters at the Howard Assembly Room

By January 24, 2016

Music. Leeds.


Vieux Farka Touré

Three African master musicians are appearing at Leeds’ Howard Assembly Room. Rich Jevons previews.

Cheikh Lo was born in 1955 in Burkina Faso where his youthful influences were Cuban, Conglolese and Burkinabe traditions. But it was in 1978 when Lo moved to Senegal that he really found his true voice, eclectically adopting mabalax (Sengalese dance), rumba, folk, funk and jazz.

Cheikh Lo

Cheikh Lo

His work has been produced by Youssou N’Dour and Balbalou, his fifth aldum, has been some five years in the making. Stand-out tracks include the eponymous collaboration with Lebanese jazz trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf; Degg Gui, featuring Brazilian pop star Flavia Coelho; and idyllic strings on Baissons Les Ammes. Don’t be deceived by the dreadlocks, Lo is no Rasta man, but his work is influenced by his beliefs as a Senegal Sufi Islamist.

Vieux Farka Toure is the son of late legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure who died in 2006 but not before giving his protégé his blessing to work as a musician. His recent album Ma Pays (My Country) indicates the pride he has of his homeland and all its beauty and simplicity despite the violent conflict it suffers. His music shines with vibrant sparlking riffs and bouncing playful rhythms and his world fusion takes in American blues, rock, Latin and other African influences. His collaborations with Isreaili pop star Idan Raichel and American indie singer Julie Easterlin have brough out some of the best of his very fine oeuvre.

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke

Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke is the founder of Ethio-jazz: in the 50s he took a degree in Music At Trinity College of Music in London; then in the 60s his studies took him to the Bosten Berklee College of Music where he focused on playing vibes and percussion with a Latin jazz influence on his African roots. For him the highlight of his career was playing for Duke Ellington on tour but it was in the late 90s that his earlier recordings got a new life through the Ethiopiques series. He has also had successful collaborations with Either/Orchestra and produced the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers.

All events at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Cheikh Lô, Saturday 30 January; Vieux Farka Touré, 4 February; Mulatu Astatke, 10 February; FILM: Broken Flowers, 26 February; WORKSHOP: African Drumming, 12 March.