Edinburgh in March can be a cold, damp, miserable place.  So used are we to wet, windy weather that we even have a special adjective to describe it: Dreich.  If only there was a band who could bring a waft of warmth, a shaft of sunshine, a hint of hot African nights.  Step forward then, London Astrobeat Orchestra for a two night residency at The Voodoo Rooms.

London Astrobeat Orchestra fuse West African rhythms with the nervy New York funk of post punk pioneers Talking Heads.  It’s a perfect fit; David Byrne had looked towards Africa for rhythmic inspiration as far back as 1980’s Remain In Light album.  London Astrobeat Orchestra go further, infusing Byrne’s songs with intricate, interlocking guitar, bass and drum patterns with the kora – a traditional African instrument – for added authenticity. Kicking off with Burning Down The House from the Heads’ album Speaking In Tongues, London Astrobeat Orchestra suck us into into a groove so tight and intricate that it threatens to mess with the space/time continuum.

Life During Wartime and Once In A Lifetime are equally absorbing.   The band use the framework of the Talking Heads songs as a launchpad to spin out a series of dazzling musical excursions.  Time and again I find myself having to consciously withdraw from the music so that I can objectively observe what is happening in front of me.  Which song is this again? Does it matter?  Do I care?   Not in the slightest.

Unbound by the task of having to write a review afterwards, the rest of the audience certainly don’t care.  The room is bouncing in a frenzy; guitarist Kingfire D Isakongo teaches us some dance moves straight out of Congo.  Such is the enthusiasm of the young lady to my left, that the camera on which I am attempting to video this mayhem is sent spinning from my hand.

Slowing things down for a much needed breather, singer and guitarist Julian Burdock works up a version of Psycho Killer from scratch, looping guitar lines with swooshes and bloops from his Kaoss pads before being rejoined by the rest of the band.  Take Me To The River tops off the set, giving each band member the opportunity for a quick solo.  Mosi Conde moves from kora to cowbell, Julian and Kingfire trade guitar lines, Moody Ndiaye rattles out a drum solo and band leader and bassist extraordinaire Edd Bateman ratchets up the rhythm even further.

An encore of Road To Nowhere brings the evening to a close with both band and audience clearly having had the time of their lives.  As we leave The Voodoo Rooms tonight we know it is going to be cold, wet and dark outside but for the last ninety minutes or so, we’ve basked in the West African sunshine.

London Astrobeat Orchestra are touring throughout the year. Look out for them coming your way

John Scott.

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