I was delighted to be asked to co-compere at Amani Live presents Coco Mbassi at Manchester’s Band on the Wall on 10 December, especially since the event heralded a new milestone for Amani Creatives, who had decided to invite a big name on the African music scene as part of their own main stage showcase event.
A huge amount of work had gone into presenting a number of local African artists at the Picturehouse at Band on the Wall over the last six months of 2016. This was an opportunity to invite everybody back for a higher profile gig and several musicians took advantage to show off their talents.
First up was the brilliant master djembe player, Sidiki Dembele from the Ivory Coast, together with South African virtuoso cello player, Abel Selaocoe, who were joined on stage with Amani Creatives co-founder and leader Tagné Tebu on percussion. The combination of sounds was mesmerising and the musicality of an incredibly high quality, despite the fact that Tagné was replacing the the bass player of Sidiki and Abel’s band Chesaba, who was not available for the gig. Abel originally trained in classical cello at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music before incorporating his African music into his music. His talent has been recognised in his native South Africa, where he has won the Standard Bank Young Artist award.
Papa Sam Alafia is a talented artist from Sierra Leone, who never fails to draw an audience with the warmth of his voice as he showcases his country’s Palm Wine Music. Not unlike the acoustic draw of old time Calypso or Mento from Jamaica, the songs display simple melodies and audiences enjoy singing along to his compositions. This man’s talents have been recognised by many a mainstream artist and you will often find his name on the credits of their songs, including Seal’s Prayer for the Dying”. He finished his set to cheers from the audience.
Coco Mbassi herself was the headliner of this wonderful event and despite having been raised to a dancing frenzy during Papa Sam’s set, the audience was delighted to quieten down to appreciate the musical diva from the Cameroon. Her band consisted of her husband Serge Ngando Tal Janes on guitar
The final act of the night brought the Amani Creatives team together with founder vocalist, Emmanuela Yogolelo, including her tribute to Papa Wemba in her set. Her vocal elegance and her nods to the pygmy music of the Eastern Congo of her birth and she was joined on stage by my co-presenter, Mama Joyce, a gospel singer from Kinshasa, who is not only a writer and composer, but lead singer of the fabulous Manchester International Roots Orchestra. Not only does she have the voice of an angel, she wowed the crowd with her bootylicious African dance skills!
Credit should go to the Amani team for pulling off such a successful event and tribute paid to partner organisations Community Arts North West, offered administrative support and Band on the Wall’s educational arm Brighter Sound who have supported Amani Creative with venue facilities for their monthly Picturehouse events. The only slight hiccup occurred with the Band on the Wall sound team, when the microphones failed just before Coco Mbassi came on stage. Despite this, however, it was clear that the audience had the time of their lives, particularly when audience member, Congolese musician Blanchard de Plaisir spontaneously decided to lead them in a spontaneous dance routine!
By Geli Berg