(What do I have such a strong pull towards Asia?!?!?)
I was delighted to catch the closing act of the Discovering Indonesia festival at the Southbank – the band Kande from Aceh, in the far west of Sumatra. They are one of those bands that just hit you full-on – incredible energy, musicianship and positive vibes! As lead vocalist, Rafly is direct, dynamic and ultimately irresistible – by the end, he had us all overcoming our diffidence and joining in with abandon. It’s hard to argue with a voice that’s so free, flexible, powerful and clear-cut – a wonderful instrument. Then the band were so incredibly funky! Their precision and drive was amazing – it was like witnessing The Funk Brothers transposed to Indonesia! And when they play fast – they really play fast! This with four interlocking percussion parts of traditional Islamic drumming, a dream bass-player who grooved like nobody’s business, and a jazzy guitarist who gave us crackling rhythm-work and sublime solos. Also an ‘extra’ singer, as in sufi music, backing up the lead vocalist, adding hand-claps and raising the temperature even higher.
Some of the numbers, indeed, were sufi-like – call-and-response chants pitching Rafly’s soaring vocals against the rest of the band. Others were more gently spiritual, Marley-esque even: songs of co-operation, motivation, warmth and friendship. With the energy of the music and the smiles on the faces, we had little doubt that these musicians came from somewhere extraordinary. By the time we reluctantly let them leave the stage, it felt like some kind of beautiful exchange had taken place.