LIVE: Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 17/11/2021

LIVE: Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 17/11/2021

It is exactly four years and one day since Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita last stood together on this stage. That performance – “a spellbinding expression of artistic brilliance” – witnessed the maestro Cuban pianist (Sosa) and the Senegalese kora virtuoso (Keita) promoting the release of their collaborative debut album, Transparent Water. Much has happened since that time, not least the no little matter of the global pandemic, with all of the attendant fear, uncertainty and devastation that the coronavirus has wreaked upon us. But the consequent lockdown did at least provide Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita with the time and space to record Suba, the follow-up to Transparent Water. And we are absolutely delighted that the two men are again back in Leeds tonight on what is the opening night of a nine-date tour of England and Wales to celebrate the recent release of that record.

As with the last occasion here in November 2017, Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita are joined onstage by the outstanding Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles. And together the three musicians produce a mesmeric tapestry of sound that is, as one, meditative, mystical and, put quite simply, magic.

Suba means “sunrise” in Mandinka, Seckou Keita’s mother tongue and it readily translates tonight as the most beautiful of new dawns. Keita describes the record as forging a connection “with our spirit and our ancestors” and the very essence of Africa percolates from its every groove. Listening to Suba at home you are transfixed by the message of peace, hope and togetherness it conveys to us in our post-Covid world; in concert, the songs therein come alive, animated by the dynamic sonic movement between, and the wonderful dancing of the two principles and further illuminated throughout by the radiance of their beaming smiles. Clearly delighted to be in each other’s company, the three men transmit unfettered freedom and joy.

The evening sets serene sail with ‘Maam’, Ovalles’s rippling percussion underpinning the mesmeric interplay between Sosa and Keita with the latter’s voice gently floating somewhere just above. ‘Allah Léno’ evolves from a place of deep yearning into a glorious awakening as Sosa and Keita make the first of their sojourns to the lip of the stage where they proceed to dance with glorious inhibition before returning to their instruments to embark upon a magnificent sequence of frenzied playing. The opening song from the new album, ‘Kharit’ returns us to a place of deep inner calm, and it is a clear testament to the three musicians’ innate creative ability that they are able to effect within us all such a safe emotional passage in what are undoubtedly the most turbulent of times.

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from this performance are HERE

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