Afrofolk, starring Adrian Roye & The Exiles – Picture This #13

Adrian and Kimberly wanna be startin something – photo courtesy Ain Lim Emotions –!/ainlimemotion

One downside to living in London: they keep throwing these big bloody parties that make the city hellish for its normal residents, and send an army of imported bureaucratic jobsworths onto the public transport system with the sole intention of making Londoner’s lives more miserable.

One upside to living in London: the amazing vibrancy of the music scene here. One day before Cannock MP Aidan Burley made his infamous comments about the Olympic opening ceremony’s “multicultural crap”, PopLifer was lucky to be in the audience for the second of the Afrofolk Sessions in Hackney, headlined by Adrian Roye & The Exiles.

Multicultural in every way, not only because of the variety of races and nationalities present, but because of the head-spinning fusion of musical styles heard in one evening. The music ranged from the sweet acoustic simplicity of Kimberly Anne to the breathtaking guitar intricacies of Madagaskar’s Modeste Hugues to the apparently effortless fusion of rock, blues, pop, African rhythms, folk and soul played by the Exiles.

Performing such eclectic music live (as visually summed up by Simon Lewis’ frequent swapping of cello for guitar) isn’t easy for even the most battle-worn old-timer, but the young Exiles achieved that rare mix of fluidity and tightness essential to pulling it off. Each of them had their star moments, but it was their chatty, charismatic livewire of a singer – Adrian Roye – who was the focal and vocal point. A formidable guitar player himself, Roye is also blessed with a gusty, gutsy voice which flits with ease between rawer songs like “Warning Shot” to lighter, more fleetfooted numbers like “Only Poster Child.”

The night ended in a triumphant rendition of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” where the tiny stage filled with performers from the whole night. You might have thought there was nothing new to learn about this song from Michael Jackson’s 761-billion-selling “Thriller”, but by slowing it down and teasing out the anguish of the verses, then surging into the sheer gusto of the chorus, Adrian pulled it off. By the end half the venue was gleefully dancing.

Dullards like Aidan Burley can stick to their stale monocultural diet if they like (perhaps Mr Burley might want to take in Fred Zeppelin tomorrow night at Cannock’s Fern and Fallow – they do admittedly have a great name), but for PopLifer nights like this are those unexpected treats which make 21st Century UK the joy it is.



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