Sometimes you want bands to do well even though the available evidence suggests that things might get a bit tricky, and so it was with Namvula on Sunday night.
Let's look at the evidence: Namvula was appearing at a village hall in rural Dorset on a Sunday night, not traditionally known as the best gig day. The weather was stinking and it was a dark November evening. To top it off the ferry was out of action so getting there meant going the long way round for those of use venturing forth from Bournemouth. Oh yeah and the F1 was on. Lots of reasons to stay in then.
To sum up I expected the crowd to consist of 2 farmers and a lost German tourist who had come in to ask directions.
Luckily though I was to be pleasantly surprised. The modern Studland village hall was full to slightly ahead of expectations with over 100 people in and without doubt they got a treat for listening orifices.
Namvula Rennie has been well received in that there London and on this Artsreach sponsored mini tour it looks like us yokels in the regions are taking to her too.
She brings with her a brand of world music that is at the same time accessible but also exotic, with a striking mix of influences from her travels around the globe.
We really enjoyed her debut album Shiwezwa (review here) and I sallied forth with the object to see if she could repeat the quality in a live setting. She could.
Namvulas' infectious rhythm gets reserved feet tapping from the off and I'm pleased to see the simplicity of their set up. No massive arrays of pedals or PAs and I get the sense that this is possibly due to the African roots. Lets face it if a loop pedal isn't available then you tend not to build your music around it.
Rennie appears to produce a sound that is both simple but multi layered with vox, percussion, sax and guitars all vying for attention in a seemingly unconnected way but at the same time producing a full community of noise.
It may have been more my perceptions than any reality but facing 100 seated patrons all expecting to be entertained seemed to produce an initial trepidation in the band. The lighting set up allowed the band to see a bunch of faces all staring back and for the first song I felt they were a little hesitant. However from tune 2 they seemed to make a conscious decision to say 'sod it' and have a good time anyway and any nerves were forced out immediately.
The attendees responded and dancing was spotted from the big kids at the back of the hall.
Speaking with producer and bassist Liran Donin during the interval it seems that, whilst the album have been a long time in the making it has also been a labour of love and the results are certainly worthwhile. Namvula brings a real taste of Africa to the UK with her set and the audience certainly responded.
Although Namvula had some sideways looks from her band, I really enjoyed the back stories to her songs, she's right when she says they may hear them every night but we don't!
Sadly for those photographers amongst us the Studland lighting appeared to be powered by gloworms and it probably would have been better if the stands were in the same postcode so I have a valid excuse for the rubbish quality of my photographs and video (this time).
It was nice to see Ms Rennie break down the fourth wall, hop down off the stage and go for a bit of a boogie with the audience. What was also really good to see was wallets and purses opening with gay abandon to purchase the album at the interval. It's important to support musicians by buying their stuff, not only for the petrol money it provides but also as a form of validation. The buyers got a bargain though.
The second half proceeded much as the first with great tunes and a great time. In fact it seemed to go a little too quickly and before long we ended up with the finale and my favourite from the excellent album 'Mukweso'.
The crowd demanded an encore and we were treated to a rather fetching array of african shirts (not available in stores).
I'm personally hoping to see them again, maybe at the excellent Purbeck Folk festival in the summer as I reckon they are perfect summer festival fare.
You can find Namvulas website here http://www.namvula.com/
and here soundcloud offering here https://soundcloud.com/namvula
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