Review: Kondi Band @ The Forge (London, 23rd April 2016)

It is no surprise that Sorie Kondi chose to name himself after the instrument he plays: the African thumb piano, kondi. He is at one with it and when he plays, he owns the stage. It is also no surprise that after hearing ‘Without Money No Family’, Brasil-based DJ Chief Boima thought Sorie deserved to be heard outside his country of origin and started remixing his tunes, and so the Kondi Band was born. The two got together and began touring the US, playing a blend of Sierra Leonian traditional music and techno beats.

The gig at The Forge, organised by Afri-Kokoa, was their London debut. Sorie sat in the middle of the stage, thumb piano in hand, drum pedal under his foot, singing with his clear and powerful voice. He could do a one-man-show and still make the audience dance, and did indeed play some solos that fired everyone up. However, the electronic touch of Chief Boima, who stood behind him with his laptop and bass box, transformed the whole venue in a dance floor. Graphic projections on the wall, alternating between footage of Freetown and geometric psychedelic patterns, delivered real house vibes.

Kondi Band’s music blurs the lines between the traditional and the contemporary, African rhythms and American beats, and the boundaries between countries and continents. The language barrier was not an obstacle because Sorie Kondi communicated through his music, but he still tried to engage with the audience in between songs nonetheless. Chief Boima let him be the star of the night, acting as a sort of art patron, who is responsible only for providing the canvas onto which Sorie paints. His contribution though was anything but secondary with his beats definitely contributing to keep the crowd dancing until the end.

Seven more songs were played after what was supposed to be the end of the set. Perhaps the duo should really should have stayed in London a little longer as one guy in the crowd suggested.