Review by Flora Masika
Watching KOKOROKO is like watching live birds fly in the early dawn or witnessing a raindrop fall into clear water. It’s like being taken into the most vivid land and seascape paintings. KOKOROKO’s use of their instruments to conjure up expansive visions was truly breathtaking to behold.
Joining the likes of musical acts such as Django Django, Oxlade, Sigur Ros, the London Contemporary Orchestra and warpaint, KOKOROKO was invited to perform at the SouthBank’s Royal Festival Hall as part of the Christine and the Queens meltdown. The French artist has become a genre bending warrior that champions the LGBTQ+ representation within his music, his identity and his message. And as for the artists handpicked for his meltdown; they were chosen because they are reshaping music culture.
KOKOROKO is an eight-piece British band that has masterfully blended afrobeat sounds with jazz. In their two EPs ( Kokoroko/ Baba Ayoola) and album ( Could we be more 2022) they have charmed the world with their upbeat melodic soundscapes. Based in London KOKOROKO has been at the forefront of the revival of the London jazz scene since 2016. During which they have won the Best Group at the Urban Music Awards, amassed over 23 million youtube views on their hit single “Abusey Junction” and played at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
I had the pleasure of watching them perform on the 14th of June. The entire event was joyful, and even as an audience member, you could sense how much the band valued the performance. As we arrived at the auditorium, the band immediately lit up the stage. Led by trumpet player Sheila Maurice-Grey; the set list consisted of songs mainly from their newest album. It was an audio journey that started with their slower songs focusing on the brass instruments to lull the audience into a dreamy state. You could feel the audience ease into their seats and any tension float away.
The gentleness did not last for long because soon enough the percussionists took over the sound with a groove straight from West Africa. Sending bolts of energy across the room, the upbeat music truly showed the complexity of what modern jazz can sound like. The bongos were the non-stop driving force that had people dancing in their seats. The addition of the electric guitar maintained the wistful tone from the beginning of the concert. Not many artists can say they had the Royal Festival Hall up on their feet and dancing. But as the second half of the concert was underway, no one could deny the contagious dancing mood. Particularly, when KOKOROKO gifted the audience with four unreleased tracks at the end of their set list.
Christine and the Queens Meltdown took place Friday 9 June until Sunday 18 June 2023.