Tuesday, June 26, 2007

BABU, baby!

Story time for fine jazz fusion

Take a little Hot Water, add some Restless Natives and you’ve got a stew of local jazz improv that's gone all the way to India and come black to Africa.

Fittingly, the word Babu has both great and low connotations on the continent of India (erm, it is too a continent. If you’ve been there, you’ll agree), but in Cape Town it has only one: Brilliant, which fits well with words like Kesivan, Shane, Reza, and Ronan. A standing ovation from a demanding crowd at their Armchair gig a fortnight ago is evidence. Wish you’d been there.

Jazz is juicy. Jazz is not easy. It’s an acquired taste. We know. But the abstraction in jazz‘s musical narrative can alienate uninitiated listeners. Babu takes that to heart and to the extreme by breaking the set up into intriguing installments of an epic tale told by Kesivan. It embodies the music as much as it guides your mind. Whiskey time becomes story time without a bedtime under the careful hands of fine musicians who have found their mojo together.

They play like they love each other; tight, joyfully, and full of expression. Ronan’s incredibly sensitive touch turns a Tabla into an angel’s heartbeat. Kesivan is inspired, knocking the nonsense out of noise and never letting go of the rhythm. Reza’s quiet subjugation to his guitar belies his power over it’s twitches and tones. I’ve never heard distortions like that. At the flick of a switch or the pick and warp of a string he coaxes the voice of a sitar, a banjo, and a violin out of his baby, and then returns to its traditional articulation as if nothing unusual just happened. His machine is an uber-electric goddess in his arms. And he’s happy to worship while Shane holds it together with that affable effortlessness of his, apparently dancing with his baby more than plucking emotion out of bass notes.

They have a sense of humour too. Last time , after a heady buildup, after they’d killed off the baddies, they finally joined the protagonists in unholy union, which meant, of course, that they closed with a Love song. Very well. You’d expect a saucy, spanking climax after the way they wound you up through the journey. But. They gave the love song the gospel treatment. Just because you were expecting sex. And then they gave everyone a Tantric climax. Just because we thought they’d let us down.

Big up to babu.

Subjugate yourself.

live and lovely at The Waiting Room, Thursday, 28 June 2007
info: tel 083.640.6464

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(no myspace, yet, sorry; they seem to be too busy making great music...)

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