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Live Review:

Blues Sans Frontieres
Bush Hall 29th October 2009
Review by Bill Clegg

Blues Sans Frontieres is a multi-cultural collaboration fronted by Brit Blues stalwarts, drummer Sam Kelly and guitarist/vocalist Robert Hokum. But anyone turning up expecting to get funky blues in the style of their regular bands Station House or The Guv'nors were in for a surprise. This was an all acoustic concert featuring ethnic styles without an electric guitar or conventional drum kit in sight.

The show started with Robert Hokum playing Sonny Terry like harp against an Indian rhythm from tabla player Anjan Saha, this was joined by Sam Kelly on Cajon, Nigel Appleton on African percussion and Graham Wright on double bass. The opening morphed into Hokum playing a raga style piece on bottleneck dobro which segued into 'Baby Please Don't Go' underpinned by world percussion.

Then Guyanese flute player Keith Waithe came to the stage and we got impersonations of rainforest sounds against a tuned African drum. This was followed by Howlin' Wolf's 'Who' Been Talkin' with thumb piano, ending with a near reggae rhythm driven by tabla and cajon and Waithe almost speaking in tongues at the end of his solo. The set ended with the original 'Hot Latin Blues' with Waithe exploiting the full range of percussive sounds from his flute and then the whole band vocalising on a Guyanese Folk Song 'Hear Auntie Bess'.

After a short break, the line-up changed to a 4-piece of Kelly and Hokum with Paul Clarvis taking over on tablas (look him up on Wikipedia!) and Mehboob Nadeem coming in on sitar. Their set included Blind Willie Johnson's 'Nobody's Fault But Mine', Marvin Gaye's 'Inner City Blues', Bo Diddley's 'Who Do You Love' as well as traditional folk blues and a stunning sitar and percussion workout. Mehboob Nadeem played throughout with amazing virtuosity and intensity.

For the close, the other musicians returned to the stage for a John Lee Hooker style workout and then surprised everyone with their take on Voodoo Chile to finish.

So, a gig that was totally different, exciting and entertaining. The musicianship was top class. Sam Kelly & Robert Hokum should be congratulated on pulling together Afro-Caribbean, Asian & British musicians and making it work!

Because of the schedules of the musicians involved, this was a one-off. I hope they get a chance to do it again.

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