Sons of Kemet is a very striking band – reeds, tuba and two drummers. It’s led by Shabaka Hutchings, features Oren Marshall on tuba, the mercurial Seb Rochford on drums, and Tom Skinner on another set of drums. This interesting combination of instruments erupts into glorious free jazz with an accessible edge. If their spiritual home is The Vortex, I’d put their physical home as somewhere in the land of the Nogs, with an Arabic edge. The tuba sound instantly reminded me of Noggin the Nog and once I’d had that thought, I couldn’t shift it. I heard gannets and seagulls shriek in the interplay of tuba and clarinet or sax, gales sometimes lashing the magical kingdom where small birds flutter, people dance around fires and enjoy hearty feasts.
This is music you have half-heard on long distant CND rallies, only superbly polished and raw at the same time, witty and joyous. There is reggae and calypso, almost pastoral solos from Shabaka. Sometimes a tuba like an angry bee, weird vibrations from a member of the audience’s knees or chest – don’t sit on the front row unless you like being very close to a tuba! The sheer effort that goes into playing a tuba is part of the joy of watching this band, the sounds extraordinary – growls like a tiger, the deepest bass sounds you can imagine. The two sets of drums are never overwhelming but they both can play loud, the lack of amplification was never a problem and sound balance was achieved by Shabaka and Oren simply changing their positions to split up the drums or to separate themselves.
It was extremely enjoyable gig, the tunes are instantly memorable, it was hard to suppress laughter at the musical interplay between Oren and Shabaka, and it was very hard to sit in our seats – two of the audience sprang from their seats and danced quietly in the doorway. Fans will be glad to know their first album will be released next year.
Sons of Kemet: