Africa 2000 Amampondo & friends Live at Bagley's London '96-DVD


Featured Artists:


Mabi Gabriel Thobejane
Airto Moriera
Brice Wassy
Byron Wallen
Risenga Makondo

Special feature with Madala Kunene featuring:

Airto Moreira, Changuito, Mabi Thobejane and Brice Wassy



Friday, 20/09/96

"The idea of the concerts in Brighton and at Bagley's in London during September, 1996, was based on the '94 Outernational sessions in South Africa; especially a live concert that took place in Cape Town at the end of the recordings. This was the first time so many musicians have been on the same stage at the same time, playing this kind of music, and I wanted to recreate that atmosphere in London so that the younger generation of ravers might experience and involve themselves in some authentic, organic trance dance music.

For Africa 2000, billed as 'a drum journey through South Africa, Cameroon and Cuba', we assembled the world's most wanted master percussionists, all of who happen to be MELT artists: Amampondo and Mabi Gabriel Thobejane from SA; Brice Wassy from Cameroon and Changuito from Cuba, plus a special appearance from Airto Moreira. We invited the audience to bring their own percussion and to be prepared for total rhythmic pandemonium. On the night, that's just what they got. Believe me, it was an awesome explosion of percussive power! alt

But you don't have to take my word for it. Here is an eyewitness account written by Paul Currion which first appeared in Tantrum, an on-line music and arts info-zine based in Orlando, Florida." Robert Trunz

B&W Music (now MELT) used to be a label noted only for worthy European jazz releases. In the last few years, however, strange things have been happening. B&W went to South Africa, and seems to have been infected with the same enthusiasm for reinvention as the new Republic. And that's why we'd all made our way to Bagley's Studio, the downbeat, offbeat, off the beaten track venue in the King's Cross Freight Depot, for a night that promised to show case B&W's new lineup of African musical talent.

The artists gathered under the Africa 2000 banner to share a stage and a record label and passion for percussion, and little else; a real diaspora clique that opens its arms to anyone who cares to listen. Although not on the B&W label, the Brighton-based troupe Mashanga give us a fair idea of what to expect with their African-Caribbean showcase, storming across the stage in a blur of drums and limbs.

After that, the musicians come thick and fast; king of the Zulu guitar Madala Kunene, supported by fellow South African Gabriel Thobejane, Cuban bongo man Changuito, and the Brazilian god of percussion, Airto Moreira. In amongst the confusion was added London's favorite trumpeter Byron Wallen, and the Cameroonian funky drummer Brice Wassy and probably more.

The unquestionable epicenter of the evening, though, was Amampondo, billed as Nelson Mandela's favorite band - which just goes to show that you can attain mystic status and still have great taste (although I still question the way he buttons his shirts all the way up to the top!)

They begin carefully enough, testing the audience with two numbers to demonstrate their fresh roots. The band make their way onto the stage, blowing polyrhythms on huge cow horns- fresh off the springbok - and everybody watching was so taken aback that we nearly forget to applaud. Then, silence is asked for while we're given a short rendition of some unnameable tune on the mouth bow, the groaning, buzzing instrument of he South African bush.


But all this is feeble National geographic material compared to the rocking machine that is the full-on Amampondo performance. Oh, I wish I could switch to music critic mode, and try to describe it , but where's the point in that? It would be like trying to describe the sun as a big bright ball in the sky. If you need to know what it's like, it's like a stuttering heart attack, it's like having your head stonewashed and preshrunk, it's like being stuck inside Cylde Stubblefield. The stage is filled with big drums and people leaping all over the place. Then just when you thought it couldn't get any tougher, Amampondo invite everybody else who's appeared on stage that evening to join them. Result: audience frenzy. Unconditional eardrum surrender. Coronaries.

Bracketed by the funky tropicalismo of Rita Ray and the drum 'n bass antics of Spring Heel Jack on DJ duties, the only criticism could be that was all too much. By the time Amampondo left the stage, there was still 2 hours left to go, and not many had the energy to face it. Drum 'n' Bass is all very nice, but we had just been exposed to three hours of raw drum; and who wants to go back once they've tasted the pure stuff? Nobody walked into the night without taking away some of that natural high.

My companion at the gig, Mr. Kemi Eke, disappeared completely; when I went looking an hour later, I found him in a back room, grinning from ear to ear, having just finished trying out somebody else's bongos. Like the rest of us, he'd been infected with the spirit of Africa 2000; the spirit of Outernationalism.