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BAN BAM: Music Talking

Ian Patterson By

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The music unfolded as a journey of constant revelations, the two musicians embracing space and silence as tools to frame their dialogue. For much of the opening piece pianist and violinist played simultaneously, following genteel parallel tracks denoted, nevertheless, by marked freedom of expression. From a pocket of quiet, subtly lyrical repose Kimura and Lunny suddenly shifted up several gears, the pianist's rumbling left-hand motif countered by lightening right-handed glissandi, accompanied by the violinist's punchy staccato rhythms. A gradual releasing of collective tension only foreshadowed a dramatic, breathless sprint for the finishing line.

On the second piece, Kimura's peg-dampened piano strings brought a burrowing, gamelan-esque rhythmic undercurrent to Lunny's lead, the violinist's initial melodic spirals giving way to fiercely sawing exclamations of Hitchcock-esque intensity. The third piece felt like unfinished business, with Lunny's lyrical intro soon swamped by her thrillingly intense, nerve shredding attack. Kimura's initial stirrings grew increasingly bolder, the two musicians soon swept up on a powerful wave that was utterly transporting to behold. The force gradually diminished, the notes fading to silence, but this only served as another launching pad for further purposeful exploration, as though seeds planted before were germinating. The short but brilliant final conversation sparked lyricism and fire -the transitions seamless, the empathy pronounced.

Kimura and Lunny's riveting improvisations heightened the senses and stirred the blood, the emotional energy of their music fairly animating the crowd. Simply too good a collaboration to be a one-off.

Ruba Shamshoum

Palestinian-born, Dublin-based singer/songwriter Ruba Shamshoum has had a busy year, writing and recording her debut album, Shamat (Self-Produced, 2017), touring in Palestine and England and playing the IMC's Hotter Than July festival. Here, leading a five-piece band, Shamshoum showcased material from Shamat and beyond, with debutant Chris Guilfoyle bringing comping nuance and improvisational edge to the leader's finely crafted songs.

The opening number, "Feather" soon revealed Shamshoum's knack for attractive melodies, spun in unpredictable ways. The singer's Arabic-sung lyrics were buoyed by Brendan Doherty, Barry Rycraft and Guilfoyle's rhythmic drive and lent sympathetic melodic counterpoint by Matthew Berrill's lilting clarinet. The variety in moods of Shamshoum's songs was marked, with jazz-inflected balladry rubbing shoulders with spoken-word experimentalism and more anthemic vocal fare.

Throughout the set Shamshoum left plenty of room for her musicians to express themselves; Berrills' unaccompanied clarinet intro to the enchanting slow-burner "Ya Layl La Trooh" cast a quiet spell, while Guilfoyle's melodic invention on the swinging "Layla," followed by Berrill on alto saxophone, injected vibrancy into a pretty song. Spare, brushes-and-bass jazz arrangement suited the intimacy of the gorgeous "In The Depth"; you could imagine Shamshoum's seductive, quite powerful vocal delivery captivating in an unaccompanied or duo setting. Shamshoum dedicated "Burkan" (volcano in Arabic) to the Middle East. The sparks came from Guilfoyle's meaty extended solo and Shamshoum's rousing vocal finale, closing out a memorable concert in style.

A songwriter and singer out of the top drawer, Shamshoum is a name to watch out for.

Kokoroko

The honor of closing out BAN BAM fell to London-based Kokoroko, a seven-piece Afrobeat collective led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey. Kokoroko was playing its first ever gig in Ireland and it wasn't long before they had the audience up and dancing to its infectious grooves.

Fronted by the triple-horn attack of Maurice-Grey, saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi and trombonist Richie Seivwright—the trio doubling on vocals and percussion—guitarist Oscar Jerome, bassist Duane Atherley, keyboardist Yohan Kebede, drummer Eddie Hicks and percussionist Onome Ighamre all contributed to the heady rhythmic stew. Most of these musicians have come up through London's jazz scene—some studying at Trinity College of Music—and plenty of serious chops punctuated the Fela Kuti/West African-inspired jams. Fiery, snaking solos from Kinoshi, Jerome, Seivwright and Maurice-Grey soared over the pulsating rhythms, with Kebede adding Afro-Latin vamps.

A vibrant set finished with an extended percussion feature, the band's polyrhythms fusing powerfully. But for the curfew, the audience would have lapped up a lot more of Kokoroko. Sixty years after Fela Kuti formed the jazz/highlife band Koola Lobitos—while also studying at Trinity College of Music in London—his legacy continues to inspire a young generation of black UK musicians to fire up this life-affirming music. Kokoroko is a terrific band—intoxicating music to lift the spirits.

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