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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

MANJULA : A Masala Festival gig @ The Black Swan, Newcastle

Vanessa Rani (vocals); Joe Harris (guitar); Simon Read (bass); Sam Bell (percussion)
(Review/photo by Ken Drew)
Typically Gem Arts’ Masala Festival is a mix of South Asian arts and culture, but this co-promotion with Jazz North East has widened the scope to include influences from further afield drawing on Portuguese, African and Latin Jazz influences. Leeds-based Manjula focusses on music from different cultures with Afro-Cuban rhythms being very much in evidence, as were the array of congas on stage!  The band is well supported by musicians bringing with them a breadth of experience in their own right - with percussionist Sam Bell, guitarist Joe Harris and bassist Simon Read all key members of the vibrant Leeds scene. 
Their first song was a classic but very much in their own style – Nature Boy (almost sounded to me like it was announced as Culture Boy).  What a great rendition when given their own treatment, very nicely done!  Then followed by My Forefathers – a song about being brought up in a mixed community, ending with a long Bass solo which segued into a slow groove with an intoxicating rhythm.  With their credentials established, the band explored more styles and varying rhythms, some with self-penned lyrics – mostly about culture but some political too. One was about looking over the edge of a cliff and thinking you’re going to fall off it, but drawing back.  Another was Vanessa’s first song written while learning to play the congas, and Painting Pictures about Facebook and the stories behind the pictures you see.  Afro Blue was quite an extended piece then 0105 (or is that a PIN number I overheard during the announcement?)  And finally, an Afro-Cuban styled Angola which brought the evening to a (late) close, but with rapturous applause.
It’s difficult to put this music into a specific genre. In fact there’s little point – it delivers an easily accessible groove with a range of styles which are a good basis for the group to play together, take solos, enjoy what they do, entertain and intoxicate the audience.  A nice excursion for Jazz North East followers, and Gem Arts too!
Ken Drew.

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