Dakhabrakha, Debademba & Amjad Ali Khan at WOMAD
Of West African heritage and based in Paris, Debademba feature the powerful voice and riveting stage presence of Mohamed Diaby, and the remarkable bluesy fingerwork of veteran guitarist, Abdoulaye Traore. They start off as a very stylish, contemporary Malian roots band with some jazzy overtones and great impassioned ballads before, half-way through the set, exploding into rock’n’roll riffs, with Diaby channelling Howling Wolf and Robert Plant in an utterly compelling and highly danceable affray.
Some parts of Amjad Ali Khan’s performance immediately afterwards were similarly meditative, while other sections were fast and furious as the master sarod player jousted with his two sons over propulsive percussion.
Then came the most compelling hour of the whole festival. Three women in white dresses and tall furry stovepipe hats sitting in a row, one playing cello and other two on percussion. To their right, a balding nondescript man in an embroidered jacket with a concertina and hand-drum. This was DakhaBrakha from the Ukraine, a one-time visitor to our own, late, lamented Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures. The women sing, their voices wild, free and magnificent; the cello sets up a riff like heavy metal, and the percussion marches like a shamanic army. The big crowd in the tent is utterly bewitched. Suddenly, the percussion stops and the male figure plays a gentle tune on the melodeon and then accompanies it with the sweetest falsetto voice. This beautiful piece continues until the percussion and cello crash back in and he roars and growls like a demented being over the top of it until it all quietens again and he is back to a sweet falsetto. Extraordinary, surprising and inspired. The show ends with a huge roar of approval and a mass waving of Ukrainian flags.