Last week, I saw Toumani Diabate at the Royal Northern College of Music. My experience of the Kora is a busker who plays in Manchester at times; he’s pretty good actually. In concert, though it becomes a different instrument. The music is actually fairly repetitive, but the pieces generally play in cycles, flowing rather than jumping following one theme, then moving to another a note at time. As a result, it’s hypnotic rather than exciting and lulls the audience. He only played four numbers (before the encore); I think that like many people, I was surprised to find that this had taken well clear of an hour.

The one negative part of the night was the accompanying blurb; this suggested that the audience should stiffle any sneezes or coughs and not open sweets during the performance to maximise everyones enjoyment. I mean what a load of po-faced nosense; like the SAGE, it’s obvious that the RNCM is a snobbish, uptight venue but this is really taking it too far. Music is to be enjoyed, engaged in, not worshipped with great reverence. When I rule the world, I will find the idiot responsible for this statement, and string them up publicly, in front of an audience, to whom I shall allocated bubble gum, packets of crisp and low velocity, high volumn sneezing powder air rifles.

Rachael Unthank and the Winterset at The Round was the an entirely different experience. A small intimate venue anyway, they were playing on home turf; their mum (the two main singers are sisters) was in the audience. The venue is odd — basically someone’s put a roof on the gap between two buildings. The sound proofing isn’t too great; you could hear music and people walking upstairs, but this makes it more personal and engrossing. The music was wonderful; like much folk, and Toumani Diabete it’s often hypnotic. Their arrangements are remarkable, often highly melodramatic, and very innovative especially when compared to more traditional folk. I think, we were lucky to get tickets; I’m not sure that they will be playing a venue that small in future or will sell out quicker than they did.

Wish she hadn’t done the gag about Hexhamshire though; it was about a misheard lyric; I won’t repeat it. I’ve had the song (Fareweel Regality) running through my head for the last week; now it will be associated with an alternative version instead.

Originally published on my old blog site.