Thursday, August 2, 2012

UKanDanz...the night away

UKanDanz, based in Lyon, France, made its US debut at Lincoln Center Out of Doors last evening before a sparse but increasingly impressed audience. Earlier rain, and the threat of thunderstorms, had kept initial attendance down. But the deepening night sky stayed dry, great music kept coming from this French/Ethiopian quintet and two other bands over the next few hours, and more people arrived to partake and enjoy.

It took me a couple of songs to warm to UKanDanz, with its raucous collision of high-pitched, passionate Ethiopian melisma and hard-charging rock. But vocalist Asnaqé Guèbrèyès served as a magnetic center to keep all the components from flying off in different directions. After awhile, it just worked.

Oumar Konate (photo by Darial Sneed)
Due to the ongoing conflict in her country, Mali's esteemed vocalist Khaira Arby could not join her band in New York, but guitarist-singer Oumar Konate took up the leadership role, bringing the funk and the rock with a majestic glide. These guys--especially Konate--really rock out in the classic style on their beautiful guitars and do so without losing the slightest degree of crystal clear precision.

I stayed for only half of the last set--Yemen Blues, fronted by an electrifying Israeli-Yemenite vocalist, Ravid Kahalani--but I was glad to hear that much.
Ravid Kahalani (photo by Darial Sneed)

These musicians play trombone, trumpet, flute, viola, cello, violin, oud, gimbri, percussion and keyboards. I hear blues, funk, North and West African rhythms and Latin jazz influences threaded through the fabric, a big, colorful, sophisticated sound, powerful enough to rattle your chest. Kahalani's sexy exuberance carries the Life Force; in fact, his first utterance, upon taking the stage, was to cry "Adonai!!!" Audience members flocked to empty spaces near the stage to sway and dance in complete enchantment. All in all, a sensational night at Lincoln Center.

Here's a taste of Yemen Blues from a 2010 trailer:

Get a schedule of remaining Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival events here.

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