Event Review: Mai Mai Mai + [something’s happening] @ Cafe OTO (London; Wednesday 12th October 2022)

It is the first time for me at Cafe Oto after a long time. I get a beer and I sit down, waiting for the concert to start. After a little while, [SOMETHING’S HAPPENING] takes the stage. The music of this sound and text duo – composed by poet and performer Iris Colomb and composer Daryl Worthington (Beachers) – is a soothing loop. [SOMETHING’S HAPPENING] explores the possible intersections of textual and sonic improvisations, where sound becomes the natural extension of language and vice versa. While Iris reads some words aloud, such as “collecting”, “ecstatic” and “transforming”, at the same time recording them, Daryl plays with the possibilities of electric sounds and “spectral guitar”, as they put it. The result is an innovative and sweet sonic texture that captures the venue, packed by then.

I realise that Italian is spoken in the audience, but the majority seem to be locals interested in Italian digital folklore. I have seen Toni going around the venue chatting with the crowd but, when he goes up to the stage, Mai Mai Mai is wearing his usual performative costume, with his face hidden underneath. Mai Mai Mai (aka Toni Cutrone) is the main act this evening. He starts playing tracks from Rimorso (out on Maple Death), his latest album and starts precisely with the opening track on the record, “Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie”, a modern take on the original 1976 track with the same name by theatre director, composer and musicologist Roberto De Simone. Mai Mai Mai’s version, the record, and his discography as a whole, is a combination of Southern Italian Folklore and gothic sensibilities with electronic sounds.

The music is a perfect blend of digital samples, sound manipulation, and human voices. The big screen behind him is showing images of the seaside, rural landscapes and ancient rituals, offering evocative visual imagery. The audience is completely absorbed in this aural and visual diorama, and for us Italians, I suppose, it is somewhat disorienting and charming to be absorbed by shared re-lived histories and memories in a London venue.