Gig review: Samba Sene/Rise Kagona


FOLK clubs aren't generally perceived as places for dancing – but then Leith Folk Club has frequently proved that it's not typical. Here it positively excelled itself in this respect, with a double bill of Scottish-based African acts that soon had the audience jigging and swaying on the spot or in their seats, and by the end saw many of them outright strutting their stuff, having managed to clear a floor-space within the club's decidedly small venue.

First up was Zimbabwean guitarist, singer and ex-Bhundu Boy Rise Kagona, backed by his three-piece Jit Jive Band on bass, drums, xylophone and shekere (a beaded gourd drum/shaker). Jit is a catch-all term for roots-based Zimbabwean pop music, exemplified by Kagona's sunny, intricate, agile yet rock-steady guitar lines, whose easy suppleness and sparkle belied their formidable technical prowess. With his incantatory or call-and-response vocals shifting between mellow, expansive warmth and deeper gravitas, and rhythms between a laid-back lope and quickfire choppiness, the hypnotic momentum cast a winning spell.

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Warming up for a string of Edinburgh Fringe shows, Senegalese expat Samba Sene crammed his multinational septet Diwan on the stage, and delivered an exuberant, richly layered set that mixed his native mbalax and Afrobeat dance grooves with reggae, ska and funk, vibrantly aligning the diverse colours and textures of kora, electric guitars, bass, djembe and drumkit, and interweaving them with his resonantly authoritative singing.

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