Sunday, 5 July 2015

Noumoucounda Cissoko & Zara McFarlane live

This double act kick-started the Canarian International Jazz Festival 2015 on Friday 3 July. So I boarded the bus #8 from Las Palmas to Vecindario (where I’ve never been until this day) and arrived to Plaza de San Rafael just in time to get one of the last free seats and a caña of Heineken (€1) before the show started.

Senegalese singer and kora player Noumoucounda Cissoko was supported by Kissima Diabaté (vocal, djembe), Frederic Hirschy (electric bass) and Yoann Julliard (drums). What a feast for the ears and eyes! It might be not exactly what you’d call “jazz” but who cares when it’s groovy? A group of young Africans turned up and started to dance, at first in front of the scene. Then, for the encore, they joined the musicians on stage, while the audience went completely wild.

The name of Zara McFarlane sounded vaguely familiar but I never heard her music until last Friday. The young British singer was accompanied by the trio of Peter Edwards (piano), Max Luthert (double bass) and Moses Boyd (drums) in what would appear like a mainstream jazz idiom, especially after Cissoko’s extravaganza. Yet mainstream it ain’t. There wasn’t a single standard; instead, soul-flavoured original compositions with clever lyrics and quite unique singing style. Oh, and a wonderful, happy smile.

Both acts featured some magic call-and-response improvisations: machine-gun-speed djembe/kora duel of Diabaté and Cissoko; seductive, almost erotic scat vocal/drums exchange between McFarlane and Boyd. And I was about to start complaining about lack of quality live music on this island!

The night was growing rather chilly and the wind was interfering with Zara’s microphone. At midnight, the show was over. I had to rush to catch the night bus (#5) back to Las Palmas. By the way, it stops at the airport. Good to know in case you need to get out of there in the middle of the night.

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