African Soul Rebels II – The Dome, Brighton, February 21 ’06

The audience bounded out into the torrential rain on a freezing Brighton night warmed by the Malian sunshine from the country’s two most unlikely musical superstars Amadou and Mariam. Their joyous set of songs ended an evening full of poignancy, humanity and, above all, great music

The II tour opened with Souad Massi. This beautiful Algerian, known for her melancholy take on traditional Algerian music, encouraged the packed Brighton Dome audience to sing along. Her music clearly demonstrates flamenco’s lineage to through the stomping beats and intricate guitar work provided by Souad herself.
As Emmanuel Jal took to the stage, face shadowed by a baseball cap, we could only begin to imagine where the life of this Sudanese former child soldier has taken him. Through his rap, Jal paints a vivid picture of the trials of his life, articulated so clearly on the recent Help! A Day In The Life album for Warchild. However, those expecting to be treated to tracks from the Ceasefire album with Abdel Gadir Salim’s Sudanese music would be disappointed. Emmanuel Jal’s gig played to his love of hip hop, clearly shown in the closing track ‘Aiwa’.
With the audience still buzzing from Jal’s set, Malian couple Amadou and Mariam launched into a thrilling set of uplifting music, largely taken from their recent Manu-Chau-produced Dimanche A album. Amadou, playing the clean Fender Stratocaster sound, so iconic in music from his West African home country, was the more animated of the two, even kneeling on the floor through a particularly rocking tune. Mariam’s beautiful voice made up for her stillness on stage, moving only to lovingly touch her husband or be led off stage. It was her encouragement, during the favourite ‘La Realite’ that got the crowd really jumping. Looking around, I saw only grinning faces dancing away, carefree, forgetting the miserable day outside.