Review: Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards @ Koko (London, 21st January 2017)

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Gilles Peterson has become synonymous with the continued revelation of the latest talents that fuse non-traditional jazz with musical influences from across the world.  This explains why his twelfth annual worldwide awards sold out quickly and why many consider him an ambassador for world music, bringing new global concepts back onshore to our regularly expanding playlists.

This showcase reminds you of the immense wealth of rich music that is seemingly infinite. Gilles is no Robin Hood, one night with him and the culturally rich can only emerge even wealthier. Luckily there is enough art to be shared by everyone and their varying tastes.

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The night consisted of both live performances and DJ sets intertwined with prize-giving speeches from winners of each category. Up and coming artists Jameszoo, Noname, ACID ARAB, Ezra Collective and Jimetta Rose made the dance floor quake in turn.  Jimetta Rose appeared twice in the best single awards list – an intensely spiritual writer, she delivers funky soul mixed with jazz and hip-hop. Her commanding renditions and personal conviction dazzled the gallery throughout her set, exhibiting both her respect for humanity and something that can be very rare in this industry – her prominent female presence. Paired with proud, upfront bass lines and sizzling percussion, this united the audience with a positive attitude and hunger for more.

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Highlights of the awards handed out include:

Best Single: Melanie de Biasio, ‘Blackened Cities’

Record Label of the Year: Soundway Records

Breakthrough Act of the Year: Noname

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Carleen Anderson and Matthew Herbert

Album of the Year: Michael Kiwanuka, Love and Hate

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Additionally, Gilles recognised the recently passed away Nigerian musician William Onyeabor for his contribution to funk, soul, and afrobeat.

The top winners in each category gave a thank you speech, most of which could have proceeded to win a secondary award for most awkward speech of the year.

But with tongue firmly in cheek, it seems fair that to say they can’t have it all, right? After winning album of the year, Kiwanuka performed three songs. With a voice that binds heart, mind and spirit, he reclaimed the heartbeat of the dilapidated venue and slowly woke the theatre up, embodying its stirring soul.

The electronic DJs ended the second half of the night by not only continuing to rouse the aged theatre, but getting it vibrating to the afro-rhythms. Matthew Herbert undisputedly demonstrated why he won a lifetime achievement award. He is known for spotlighting unusual soundbites from day to day events and merging them into dancefloor songs, perfect for when the vibe gets party-deep. He can take his set through a dense avant-garde exploration but kept this hour less abstract, yet surreal enough to install the dancing crowd into a time-travelling trance.

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Some complain that this event has become too commercial, but I couldn’t disagree more. Gilles Peterson has earned the respect he garners, and returns each year with even more fresh and exciting acts.  Who knows, Koko may have had its last bounce for a while and gone for a nap, but Gilles and his pals will certainly be back next year with yet more ear-popping and stimulating discoveries. Wherever they settle, they’ll be ready to breathe new life into both their audience and their surroundings.

photos ©: Dom Daniel

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