Posts tagged ‘Electric Proms’

September 30, 2009

Electric Proms loses some of its lustre

The Electric Proms emerged in 2006 with a varied and refreshing ideology. The BBC’s task was to produce a new and interesting spin on a somewhat overcrowded live music market.  With a series of concerts staged in the London Borough of Camden – highlighting the incredibly contrasting and historic venues of the famous North London melting pot, it combined both the alternative underbelly of the music industry as well as the grand gestures of the music hierarchy.   Art rock via Battles, the jazz stylings of the Basquit strings through to the classic cockney troubadour – Ray Davies. All genres were represented under an umbrella of youthful and innovative vigour – presented through the multi-platform expertise of our beloved national broadcaster.   The first three years seemed to follow a similar mandate – even Liverpool joined in on the act last year – to celebrate their European Cultural Capital accolade.

All of which makes this year seem a bit of an anticlimax.   Gone is the multi-venue, multi-platform broadcasting.   This year the Roundhouse will be the solo host to acts that have already had their fair share of publicity -including Dizzee Rascal and Florence and the Machine.   Sure the grand statement is represented well by the classic performers of Shirley Bassey and Smokey Robinson, but where is the youthful edge and innovation that the Electric Proms so greatly promised in its inaugural years.   Giving such valuable airtime to comeback kid Robbie Williams while ignoring a plethora of talented young bands hardly encourages creativity, let alone offers fair and proportionate representation for the license fee.

November 22, 2008

Africa Express bring the party to the proms

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Africa Express –  22 October, KOKO – Camden

Most gigs you go to these days you pretty much know what to expect.  Sets usually comprise of about an hour and a half – unless its an old timer – mainly made up of songs from the last album with a splattering of hits to open and close the show.  This is repeated around the length and breadth of the country until the band/artist goes back into the studio to record again.  Not so with Africa Express.  This collaborative, evolving, collective of well-travelled musicians certainly brings the freewheeling, organic vibe to anywhere they decide to party.

Started as a brainchild of Damon Albarn after he visited the west coast of Africa several years ago it is now a seething mass of talented musicians all coming together for one reason, musical unity.  Many well-known artists will appear, disappear and reappear tonight during this 8 hour marathon of music.  Damon Albarn doesn’t even show himself properly until about two hours in, and that’s to remonstrate with the sound and lighting engineer!  Despite all the western artists, Flea, Johnny Marr, Sam Duckworth, Hard Fi, et al, tonight really belonged to the African players.  Baaba Maal started the show with his powerful timbre echoing around the Victorian arches, effortlessly balanced between soft and strident.    Afterwhich a whole glut of African artists ambled on including Rokia Troare, Tony Allen and Oummou Sangare – all sharing the stage with North London, North American and West African rappers.

The undoubted two highlights of a thoroughly entertaining and unrehearsed jam session were Amadou and Mariam – cool, laid back malian blues with the ethereal vocals of Mariam and the funky swing of Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – a nine, strong hip hop horn crew, entirely made up of brothers.  When they were blowing the party was swinging.  Even though it did demand a little patience from the crowd, long pauses between songs and wildy eclectic acts, it took the audience and musicians on a sonic journey that had both fans and bands alike second guessing throughout.