Review: Mose Fan Fan & Somo Somo @ The Forge (London, 23rd September 2015)

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One of the most fascinating qualities of the London African Music Festival is the ability to unearth new wonders of the African music scene as well as paying homage to its legends and the musicians who built that scene, spreading it all over the world.

Mose Se Sengo ‘Fan Fan’ is a bright example of the latter category. Since the 1960s he has been one of the ‘prophets’ of soukous (or Congolese rumba) and from the ‘80s onwards he has been one of the most renowned representatives of the so-called ‘world music’ phenomenon.

To see him and his band Somo Somo on stage today is an exciting experience. The band’s skills and genuine love for music are inspiring. After more than fifty years spent playing his unmistakable guitar Mose Fan Fan certainly knows how to attract and grip his audience. That’s why the hundreds of music enthusiasts gathered at the Forge were up on their feet even before the end of the first song.

As soon as the first notes sounded the nine musicians crowding the tiny Camden venue’s stage seemed completely at ease, performing with naturalness and simplicity.

Although the band was playing some pretty overwhelming tunes, they were completely calm and at ease. Meanwhile in the darkness of the dance floor, Mose Fan Fan’s fans were anything but calm. People danced throughout the gig, following the sinuous equatorial rhythms and fixed to the infectious effusive melodies.

If the gig wasn’t a full-scale triumph it was because of its duration. After little more than an hour the show was already over, even though the audience longed for more Congolese musical delights. But no one begrudged them that. The musicians had presented a captivating show reviving some of the most popular of Mose Fan Fan’s hits, such as ‘Hello Hello’, ‘Kwala Rumba’ and ‘Moses’ and had demonstrated supreme musical cohesion on stage. And they were utterly devoted to their origins. As Fan Fan sang in ‘Africa Moto’, “Oyé Africa, I can’t forget where I come from […] is to you I belong”.

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