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A review by James Buxton w for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Roberto Fonseca

+ Ayanna


with a special guest appearance from Fatoumata Diawara


Barbican Hall


26 March 2012


Opening for Roberto Fonseca tonight is the fabulously talented, Ayanna, a British cellist, vocalist and composer whose unorthodox playing style will captivate you to the core. She is the first non -American to win the Amateur night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and with good reason, for Ayanna is quite simply, stunning. In a flowing, floor length white dress, she plucks out Black folk rhythms on her cello with moving dexterity, tapping out a beat with a cowbell, while her rich voice fills the auditorium with a powerful and emotional lyricism. However it is the way she plays the cello that is most unique, for Ayanna combines the elegance of a concert cellist with the experimental nature of a child. One moment she slides her bow across the strings, resonating her instrument’s oaky richness, the next she plucks each string with a flourish of her fingers and drums her hands along the side of the cello, creating a chain gang rhythm. She plays organically as if the cello is an extension of herself, capable of communicating her internal rhythms and moods in a totally inimitable way. From the swagger of her bouncing bow to the sonorous cadences of her exceptional voice, no matter what kind of music you’re into, Ayanna will truly mesmerize you.

Radio 1 World Music DJ, Giles Peterson introduces Robert Fonseca, who he met three years ago on a tour of Cuba. Fonseca is the young, rising star of the Afro Cuban music scene, having played with the Buena Vista Social Club and appeared on Glies Peterson’’s Havana Cultura series of albums. Since 1999 he has been carving out his own style on the World Music stage. An incredibly talented Jazz pianist, Fonseca is a charismatic figure who combines a great musical sensitivity with a celebratory style. Listening to Fonseca and his band is like being taken to a carnival where the vibrancy and colours of life are thrust into focus with amazing immediacy.

His new album, YO, is his most personal to date and is the culmination of the diverse styles he incorporates. From blissed out grooves of Cuban Funk to  Carnival rhythms, Malian drumming to sampled voices, Fonseca’s music is a polyphonic tapestry of sound which he conducts from the helm of his grand piano. There is a beautiful, leisurely feel to the way Fonseca plays, and his songs feel like musical discussions between the instruments, following the natural diversions of a conversation. So we are lead down the alleyway of Yandy Martinez’s bass line, along the skipping chords of Jorge Chicoy’s guitar, onto the leisurely drumbeat of Baba Sissoko’s tiny drum and out into the smoky, night air exhaled from Javier Zalba’s sultry clarinet. This is music that makes you laugh and smile. The dynamic between Fonseca and Sissoko is so jovial and free spirited that you can’t help but feel happy.  Sissoko’s smile is truly infectious and it spreads into the music, as he strums his ngoni with flair and Fonseca replies with the trill of a piano.  They make you feel happy, because they are most happy making music. Twirling you around you with no direction in mind, frolicking with Samba steps and Rumba rhythms you are caught up in its intoxicating freedom.

Fonseca pounces along the width of the piano with an energetic yet highly sensitive playing style, and switching from grand piano to keyboard, he hammers out chords with a Hammond Organ, echoing the torrential twanging riffs of Sekou Kouyate’s Kora.  Fonseca’s songs burst at the seams with anarchic urgency as the whole band joins together to create the kaleidoscopic sounds of a carnival. While at other moments, there is a leisurely ambience that imbues each song with lullaby like rhythms as if you were falling asleep watching the sea comb the length of a beach. The sampled voices that Fonseca employs and the Vocoder he uses to distort his own, adds another layer to the complex sounds he composes, creating a wholly Cuban sensation, fusing stately decay and timeless grandeur with modern electronica and Afro Cuban rhythms.

As the crackle of vinyl voices fade in and out of his compositions, plumes of smoke drift through the scarlet light of the auditorium and for one evening, Fonseca takes us meandering through the lively streets of Havana and leaves us to find our own way home.



Barbican Hall

Barbican Centre
Silk Street London

26 March 2012


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