When I received an invitation to attend an 'Industry Showcase' gig with a request for comments on an 'African drum & bass' duo, Mashasha & Sam, I was intrigued. This sounded very interesting. When I then discovered that they'd been two-thirds of Zim(babwe) jazz trio Too Open, my curiosity was even more aroused as I'd heard about Too Open from Zim acquaintances who thought them the dog's gonads and described them as Zim's answer to the South African contemporary jazz scene.
Now I've always had something of a soft spot for South African jazz, going right back to early Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), and for all varieties of Southern African music in general. So it was a cert, I had to go and hear Mashasha & Sam Live: Power Down @ The Power House Industry Showcase in Chiswick.
From the blurb, by way of a short introduction to this duo: 'Songwriter, singer, bassist and guitarist Mashasha is best known in his native Harare as the most in-demand bass player in town. Since moving to the UK he has been steadily building a following through live performances, and has just independently released his self-titled debut CD on his label Elegwa Music. Sam Chagumachinyi is a master drummer and percussionist from Zimbabwe, renowned in Zimbabwe for his highly individual and unconventional style.'
Of course, the very concept of an 'African drum & bass' duo has to be intriguing, given that vocals supported with just drum and bass are no easy matter.
But when Mashasha & Sam finally started their twenty minute or thereabouts set, it was pure delight! Mashasha's vocals were excellent, and his electric bass equally so. Sam played a drum that appeared to be an up-turned large half a calabash, supplemented by a hi-hat and a ride cymbal (if I glimpsed correctly through the crowd), with simply breathtaking dexterity and panache, not to mention an astoundingly wide-ranging palette.
Sadly, Mashasha & Sam had to struggle against a rather noisy crowd, many of whom seemed to consider their conversation of greater importance than listening to the music. However, this could not detract from the quality of either the music or the performance.
The roughly half dozen Zimbabwean songs were excellent. Their performance was sheer delight and indeed made one wish to hear a full gig by Mashasha & Sam. While I'm sure we will hear this amazing duo a lot more, I also hope this won't be limited to the African/Afro-Caribbean expat etc. circuit and that instead we shall see Mashasha & Sam on the wider, general music circuit where they belong.
A great, hugely enjoyable set.
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