Dobet Gnahoré Na Drê Dance – Brighton Dome Studio Theatre – 8th October 2014

I was lucky enough to spend a few days with Dobet Gnahoré as she started her UK tour, organised buy Brighton based African Night Fever, to promote her new album 'Na Dre'. I first meet her at Marina Studios during one of the torrential downpours we’ve have been having recently. They had already spent hours rehearsing before I arrived and were fine tuning the choreography of the dance for one of the songs. Dobet was woking with local dancer Kawme Obeng and Landing Mane whom she had not worked with before but were part of the African Night Fever plan, put together as unique package of musicians and dancers with different backgrounds and styles to create something special.  
The dancers look like a good match and the whole time I spent with them they were laughing and joking with each other and having a lot of fun. While their physically demanding dance routine made me feel exhausted, just watching! Today they were playing to a backing track in a nice dance studio and I left them working on the routines as they had to get ready for tomorrow when the rest of the band joined them.
 
The next day Dobet, the dancers and the band (Bass/Keys: Govinden Clivebasse Clive, Guitar:  Colin Laroche de Féline, Drums:  Boris Tchango) were rehearsing at Brighton Electric with the three musicians down the far end of the room and a nice big space in front of them for the dancing. Although the dancing only takes up a small part of the overall show it was the dancing that was rehearsed the most on the two days running up to the opening night. With the live music now backing up the dance routines that everything became a lot more polished and suddenly had much more energy and effect. Once again I left them while they continued on with preparations, quite excited to see how it would all look on the big stage.
 
The next evening I headed down to The Dome Studio bar and managed to catch the man behind African Night Fever and the tour Ebou Toure. He was delighted with how things were going and it had been something he had wanted to do for a long time. Now with the help of some Arts Council funding he has managed to get a big international artist (Grammy award winner for 'Best Urban/Alternative Performance') working with local Brighton talent and touring it around the country. A short while later he was up on stage introducing Dobet Gnahoré and thanking everyone who helped make it happen.
 
The show kicked off with Boris Tchango taking his place behind the drum kit and almost as soon as he sat down he had the crowd swinging to his groove. Dobet Gnahoré then entered on stage and picked up a hand held percussive instrument and started to sing. Her voice is amazing and she can sing in many languages, although English is not one of her strongest. As the vocals were really starting to kick in Govinden Clivebasse Clive entered the stage and adds in some keyboard parts to the mix. With Colin Laroche de Féline drifting into his position towards the end of the song and picking up the guitar. A nicely choreographed first song that really got you in the mood for what was to follow.
 
I’m not able to tell you all the languages in which Dorbet was singing  but she did explain each of the songs in reasonably good English. They are mostly about different kinds of love and emotions which gave us enough info to put the songs in context and made them come to life a bit more. Dobet continues her show with a mixture of gentle vocals, dancing and moments of powerful intense singing displaying her immense her range of skills.
 
As we move through the night Dobet can bee seen alongside the drums with some impressive percussion on the conga's, also keeping time with some shakers at the front of the stage or with a wooden box instrument she played with her thumbs interspersed with occasionally guitar work.
 
I've seen a few bands over the years who utilise a large number of different instruments and more often than not it can seem like a gimmick but this performance was a showcase of how to do it right. The pace and timing of when to throw in something a little different was spot on. In fact the first time Kawme Obeng and Landing Mane (her two dancers) joined her on stage was toward the end of the first half of the set and lifted the crowd into their top gear.
 
You could not have asked for a better start to the tour and it all came together on the night. A packed hall saw something quite special and I'm sure we will be seeing Dobet Gnahoré back in Brighton before too long and it's definitely a performance to catch next time around.
Jonski Mason