Review: The Turbans @ Islington Assembly Hall (London; 21st April 2018)

A moment occurred during the final stages of The Turbans‘ album launch show at the Islington Assembly Hall which symbolised the entire gig – an image which epitomised almost two hours of wild and well-played music: Oshan ‘Danger’ Mahony, one of the founders of the project, firmly holding and beating on an unwieldy davul, gave life to an impromptu stage dive, sustained by an over-excited crowd. On the stage, the rest of the band was going hard at the final notes of “Hackney”.

The show, which introduced the first full-length record from the band from ‘manywhere’, was indeed a musical blowout, as well as being well-co-ordinated chaos. The more the musicians looked on the verge of making a hash of their set list – and eventually the entire performance – the more you were sure that everything was under their control. Apart from some issues with the sound, (we’d guess that it’s a sound engineer’s nightmare to set up and care for a band like The Turbans and their dozens of guest acts), the eight-piece ensemble was not only able to appeal to all their energies to blow away the sold-out venue and their fans, but also proved to be formed by top-notch performers, improvisers and all-round entertainers.

Being at the gig was like being at a circus show: we enjoyed a variety of musical acrobats, jugglers, equilibrists and clowns. It felt like we were not only experiencing the show, but we were taking part in, and actively contributing to it, all while being constantly amazed by the musical pirouettes, melodic jokes and rhythmic tricks played on stage. Then, there was The Turbans’ pan-Gipsy sound; a flavourful musical goulash seasoned with notes inspired by India, Iran, Northern Africa and Andalusia, enjoying special zests typical of the Balkan and Turkish traditions – a rich and corroborative soup fully manifesting itself in the band’s debut album, which inevitably played the lion’s share of the set list.

Songs like “Riders”, (a perfect summa of The Turbans’ musical credo), the arpeggiated and flamenco-scented “Aman”, the atmospheric “Sinko Moy”, (made even more mystical by the London Bulgarian Choir), or “Chubby”, with its aromatic gnawa vibes and Celtic-inspired violin lines (performed by Simo Lagnawi and Gnawa London), were all portions dished up from the same cauldron.

The meal was so tasty that you just couldn’t get enough, so much so that the audience inevitably asked for seconds after seconds, and the musicians kept on serving them until closing time.