Friday, 13 April 2018

Let Drum Beat: an all-female musical powerhouse

Two Brazilians, a Beninese, a Scot and an Italian walk into a bar and…

No, this is not the beginning of a bad, Jeremy-Clarkson-flavoured joke, but the all-female, musical set-up that has been lighting up London’s stages of late. Let Drum Beat is Alba Cabral, Béa Shantifa, Lizzie Ogle, Marta Riccardi and Tuca Milan. These superb musicians use a wide range of Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments to create their unique, fusion-powered style. Singing at times in Portuguese, French and Tupi-Guarani, Let Drum Beat uses vocal harmonies to establish a connection to their homelands, transporting their audience there in the process.

This link was much needed recently when they played to a very receptive and welcoming crowd at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, in Tottenham, north London. Rain-soaked and cold weather has pretty much been spring’s main contribution so far. Yet, in just over an hour-long set, Let Drum Beat brought the temperature in the room up to Brazilian-summer levels. I was impressed not only with the musicianship and compactness of the ensemble but also with their use of non-percussive instruments, like the rabeca, a north-eastern-Brazil-rooted, violin-like, stringed instrument that, unlike its close European relative, is supported either on the chest or left shoulder.

In a diverse, multicultural city like London, where world music aficionados have plenty of options available to them, Let Drum Beat stands out as a musical powerhouse in their own right. Energetic, innovative and risk-taking, these five women have already blazed a trail. The launch of their debut album this summer (announced on the night) heralds a new era, not just for Let Drum Beat but also for London’s music scene.

© 2018

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Thoughts in Progress

Three and a half months into the New Year, how are your resolutions going? Remember them? They’re the ones you thought up as you knocked back that fourth glass of cheap prosecco, bought from your local Lidl. The Lidl where you definitely do not wantto ever be seen by your fellow middle-classers, but to which you elopefurtively at almost closing time when no one’s looking and your pockets lackthe depth they once had. Anyway, back to my main point, how many resolutions have you kept? How many have you thrown overboard, into that big ocean called “Real Life”?

Late December and early January have that self-satisfying, fresh-start effect that animates many a New Year’s Eve shindig. It is that sense of finally, finally! beginning that much sought-after, new chapter in our lives. Yet, beyond this burst of motivation lies a not-always-perceptible threat: disappointment.

What killed Icarus? Hubris or failure to realise his New Year's resolution: flying as close to the sun as possible?

There are both mental and physical consequences as a result of this grandiose vision of the year ahead. Namely, we tend to overlook small but equally important changes in our lives. Hitting the gym and attempting to go from a size 16 down to a size 10 takes precedence over going for a brisk walk in the local park regularly. The former might burn more calories in a shorter time, but it is the latter that manages to leave us more fulfilled and complete as human beings in the long term. Another mental minus is that we set the bar for our resolutions so high that not even the former pole vault legend Sergey Bubka would have been able to clear it. The outcome? Frustration.

On the other hand, having low expectations does not help either. Based on close observation, I have noticed that pessimists or those prone to having a negative outlook on life, tend to have a body language that mirrors their attitude. Slouched shoulders, bent posture and solemn-looking faces are some of the signs I usually come across, even if they are not conclusive evidence.

We live in a world full of expectations, both made of us and by us. The problem is that constant target-setting is tiring and it takes the joy out of the life we, ironically, are trying to live well. My advice? Do not ever expect perfection. Give New Year’s resolutions the heave-ho. We are broken humans after all.

© 2018


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