Anyone who reads my stuff on The Revue will know I tend to cover smaller indie bands, usually in Victorian pubs. However, a trip to The Water Rats in London’s King’s Cross gave me something very different to chew on.
The Water Rats is a historical building. Bob Dylan made his UK debut in 1962 here, and Oasis performed their first London gig in 1994. Apparently both Lenin and Marx could be found in the bar supping some of the ales, too.
Solomento came down from their native Stroud (about 100 miles west of London) to act as a warm up act for Debo.
The seven-piece plays music that is an infusion of ska, cuban, and mento (Jamaican folk music that predates ska). On top of that, Wanje Luckie, their tall singer/percussionist, sings in Giryama, Kiswahili, as well as English. It really is a melting pot of styles that blends perfectly into a very catchy and dance-able sound – or “Solosound” as Wanje called it.
Solomento songs make you feel happy. One tune, “Mambo Vipi”, involved a call and response with the audience delivered in Swahili (?). I had no idea what I was shouting back at the stage, but it felt like the perfect thing to be doing on a Sunday evening.
The band consists of members of the equally dance-able, now defunct Ska Daddy. That name came when “Trombone” Dave formed a band with a load of dads he met in a pub on the understanding that they would play his preferred choice of genre. Solomento line up with a double bass, Cajun drum, violin, trumpet, guitar, trombone/melodica, and Wanje. At least 6 of the 7 seem to do backing vocals, too. Their rich sound is quite often supplemented with people who fancy banging something – the actor Keith Allen has been known to jam with them.
It’s easy to see why Solomento are in demand for parties and festivals (they are regulars at the likes of Glastonbury, where they’ve been known to change their name to Wandering Ska). Keep an eye out for the Solomento and take your toe-tapping shoes with you just in case these Dads will put a smile on your face.
Debo Band hail from Boston and were playing the first night of a European tour.
If Solomento crowded the stage with their seven-man line up, Debo went one better with eight members. Similar instruments appeared – guitar, bass, violin, drums, two saxes, accordion and lead vocalist, Bruck Tesfaye. (I think they actually have 11 members in the band when at full strength).
Bruck jumped about in his jazzy trousers, taking time to go out into the crowd to sing a bit and dance with one excitable audience member. He’s not only a front man but a front-of-house man too.
Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen put the band together in 2006. Debo incorporates traditional East African scales and vocals, alongside American soul and funk rhythms. It’s the sort of thing that you would have heard on the streets of Addis Ababa in the 1970s.
While they were setting up, I overheard Kaethe Hostetter, the violinist, tell Solomento’s violinist Johnny that her dad had made her instrument. Artisans of the highest order, they blend ’70s funk and jazz with Ethiopian lyrics. On the face of it, it’s not the sort of thing I would usually be drawn to even though they have been promoted by Sub Pop Records in the past. But they were fun, tight and sharp and the crowd were mad for them.
I did look for Dylan’s, Marx’s, and Lenin’s names carved in the gents’ toilets. I didn’t find them, but I was more than happy to find an evening of world music at it’s best. Now back to that indie stuff…
Thanks to AGMP for inviting The Revue to cover this gig.
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