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Salif Keita drowned out by his own band 12 February 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in Amsterdam.
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Salif Keita at the Paradiso, 10 Feb 13As Truus mentions on Facebook, my belated initiation to the delights of the fabled Paradiso on Saturday night was a bit of a damp squib. Salif Keita was there with his tale tour, but it was not half as good a show as Youssou N’Dour was in the Rabozaal just up the road.

Why? Because of the sound engineers who mistook a concert for a bop. Things started off well enough, when we climbed up to the second balcony and dragged an unused bench over to the rail, from where we had a God’s-eye view of this converted church. The bar was handy too – although the beer it served is Holland’s worst (Amstel).

The disillusion set in when Salif Keita came on. The chief glory of his music is the interweaving rhythms and melodies, and if the one drowns out the other then the whole exercise is a waste of time. It’s a real shame! Why do the sound engineers assume the audience wants a tuneless 2-beats-per-second rhythm and no melody? Why turn up with 2 string instruments, two singers and a keyboard if all you can hear are the percussionists? The heartbreaking moment came when towards the end of one song they suspended the drumming – then for a glorious 10 seconds or so we could hear the underlying song!

A further disappointment came when the female vocal accompanist, who had been gyrating decoratively on the left-hand side of the stage in a most unIslamic fashion, forgot her words and was shown up to be miming.I suppose it was a bit too much to expect that such an exquisite voice could come from someone who was jiggling about so energetically in her hot pants.

Keita himself acted a bit like a waxwork, standing still or pacing about in his smart white jacket and white bowler hat, grimacing and singing the odd line or verse, but not obviously enjoying himself, unlike his guitarist. When he came on he knelt on the stage, but after that he addressed not one word the audience apart from a couple of thankyous – not a word about the civil war in his home country. That was left to the warm-up act, Wij Zijn Hier (We Are Here) from a local refugee shelter.

My advice: buy the CD and listen to his music from the comfort of your own sofa.

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