A certain dancing fever took over London’s Kings Place, where Family Atlantica & Dobet Gnahoré opened this year’s Songlines Encounters Festival at London’s Kings Place.
“Now, let’s begin the ritual!” Luzmira Zerpa (pictured above), the Venezuelan lead singer of Family Atlantica proclaimed with a beaming smile. The group certainly kicked off the first concert of this, the fourth edition of Songlines Encounters in entrancing and invigorating style. Zerpa and the six musicians had already started their own little ritual backstage with some group chanting, psyching themselves up before making their entrance onto the stage in a blast of colour, hypnotic percussion and conch blowing.
Within minutes of the first song, they had people dancing in the aisles and that was pretty much the way it continued for the rest of the evening. It certainly quashed my fears about the seated venue suppressing any audience participation! Zerpa cut quite a dash in her feathered headdress, white-framed sunglasses and button and amulet-festooned outfit, and with several cheeky mentions about songs being from their ‘award-winning album,’ – they are Songlines Music Awards 2014 Newcomer winners – this musical family gave a performance that emphasised why they thoroughly deserve this accolade.
The energetic spirit of the evening continued in the second half with the Ivory Coast-born singer Dobet Gnahoré (pictured above) and her three musicians on guitar, bass and drums. Like Zerpa, Gnahoré has a striking stage presence – resplendent in black, hair tied up in a bright red headpiece, together with gold glitter boots. It isn’t just the look but the power and range of Gnahoré’s voice that is transfixing. And when she started to dance, it simply underlined why she has a reputation as being one of Africa’s most dynamic performers. Once the gold boots were discarded, you knew she meant business – the dancing became more like gymnastics and incited an impromptu stage invasion by some audience members and Family Atlantica’s percussionist in a sort of dance-off.
“Dancing is tax free – go for it!” Zerpa had announced during the first half – and it certainly seemed to define the night – maybe time to consider renaming the festival Dance Encounters? A cracking start anyway, with two performances that really set the mark in terms of entertainment – can’t wait for the next instalment!