REVIEW: Afro Celt Sound System at the Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

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Dylan Kelson, above, and Joseph Grout, below, let rip on stage

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A cold wind blows across Southsea in this post-Brexit, post-US election world. But inside, the chill is replaced by the warmth of Afro Celt Sound System, and warm exotic breezes blow along with a band that defy pigeonholing.

On their first UK tour for 20 years they begin with a languorous guitar-driven taster. There are a lot of them and a lot of instruments to use, all done to dazzling effect.

Afro Celt Sound System at The Wedgewood Rooms, November 2016. Picture by Paul Windsor

Afro Celt Sound System at The Wedgewood Rooms, November 2016. Picture by Paul Windsor

Beaming N’Fali Kouyate, a west African mandingo griote (traditional hereditary musician and historian) gives us shimmering complex runs on his kora harp. Two towering sets of drums and percussion fire polyrhythms along with crisp ancient beats. Alongside this is a jazzy fiddle and shuffling Irish percussion. The music works by its masterful use of age-old musical forms, cross-pollinated, and yet there is Celtic poetry as hip-hop, soaring vocals from the whole band.

No time was taken in warming up, and within minutes the dignified crowd of the diehard and the curious were swaying and dancing. Next time I see them I hope I’ll be picking grass from Southsea Common off my clothes. Quality.