The second day of Songlines Encounters Festival at London’s Kings Place continued the theme of talented female artists with violinist Anna Pheobe and Romanian singer Oana Cătălina Chiţu.
For me the magic moment of Friday’s Songlines Encounters was the virtually spontaneous tango that Oana Cătălina Chiţu (pictured above) performed with violinist Anna Phoebe. Anna had tried it out for just a few minutes backstage, but performed it with total panache, brilliantly integrating with Chiţu’s fantastic pan-Balkan band. This was one of those great Encounters moments that comes of musicians meeting and hitting it off together.
Violinist Anna Phoebe (pictured below) opened the show and her playing was expressive and intensely physical, using all her body – particularly her shapely left leg as she prowled around the stage. Sometimes it was long lyrical lines, sometimes tight rhythmical phrases with the bow alternating with her hips. But the music was all original, composed with guitarist Nic Rizzi, and had texture and depth. Her band included tabla player Simran Ghalley in a striking Sikh warrior costume playing at one point in a magical trio with violin and acoustic guitar. They are next off to Poland to support Bob Dylan in concert there.
Romanian singer Oana Cătălina Chiţu was at Songlines Encounters purely on the strength of her album Divine, released by Asphalt Tango last year. She was performing music from the repertoire of Maria Tănase, the Romanian Edith Piaf. I was confident that the music would be good, but I was particularly delighted by Chiţu’s quirky personality on stage – “my English is very communist,” she said. She’s a sublime singer and particularly in the slow languorous numbers, but also generous in giving her band space time for lengthy improvisatory solos. Her musicians on accordion, sax, cimbalom and kit drums come from Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Greece. This is really what Songlines Encounters is about, raising the profile of quality artists from around the world, and I really hope Oana Cătălina Chiţu is able to perform more in the UK. She was already talking to Anna Phoebe about recording together in Berlin!