Derby-based Congolese band Bana Congo appeared in Beeston on 15 October to launch Broxtowe Borough Council`s `Mythical Monsters and Carnival Creations : An Event for Black History Month`.
This was their second appearance in the town centre this year and, by co-incidence, they are the second Congolese band I have seen live. (The first, who appeared in Beeston, I think during August 2010, was a band whose name I forget, but who were fronted by a heavily-built man of Christian beliefs who I understand plays amateur rugby. If anyone knows their name, I`d be happy to have my memory refreshed.).
They played two sets. The first was a fairly straight-forward set of what people of my age used to call `world music`, but with a decidedly central African flavour. The line-up for this event was a four-piece - percussion, bass, keyboard, voice/guitar. I believe they sometimes appear with a larger band, according to what is required. Their sound was compelling - propelled along by bass playing that was melodic but also `driving`, if that`s the word I`m looking for, and with the keyboard adding a touch of melody that gave the whole concoction a bit of colour. The only criticism I would have of the first set was that, playing in a built-up area, the sound was too loud and could seem quite harsh. Oddly, you could not hear them too much until you got quite near, and then the sound hit you like wave, so I can only assume it was a problem of the acoustics of the area.
During the interval I had a business matter to see to and my son was feeling unwell, so I was delayed getting back for the second half. On my return, the sound problems seemed to have been eradicated, and the band were now playing in a slightly different style. I would describe this approach as being to combine African vocals and harmonies with backing influenced by `60s rock/pop - the backing on one tune sounded a bit like The Mavericks if that gives you an idea. The combination of styles worked well in practise - I accept it sounds a bit odd on paper - and the keyboard player adopted a different mode of playing, reminiscent of the instrumentals Winston Wright recorded for Duke Reid (and trust me, I don`t campare anyone to the mighty Winston unless I`m feeling pretty sure of my ground !).
All in all, a great - not just good - band that I would have no hesitation in seeing again if circumstances permit.
I would like to close by commending Broxtowe Borough Council for the events they sometimes put on in Beeston. Being a bit of a muisic addict, I`ve enjoyed the bands I`ve seen there - JT4, Joe Strange and Carmina spring to mind - and it is nice to see them in a family-friendly setting.