The World @ St Georges West
6-26 August, 19.20
A curiously sunny and unexpectedly exotic atmosphere is created inside a sweet west-end church by this Ethiopian music troupe. The combination of live dub reggae, ethiojazz and folkloric Ethiopian music with bright lighting, incense and sunlight streaming through stained-glass windows creates a transporting sense of warmth.
The performers are charming, and the front woman in particular is a curiously strong personality with a beautiful clear voice. However, when mistakes inevitably occur, a lack of professionalism is shown by awkward mumblings and hand signals amongst the musicians. Some songs are also overlong, becoming slightly repetitious.
Tales of Ethiopian traditions and history are the most intriguing aspect of the evening, though interesting also are the unusual rhythms and aural aesthetics, which are fascinatingly different to the usual experience of the western ear.
For a while, awkwardness reigns with us up-tight Brits sitting and bobbing heads while the performers party on stage. The moving of performers among the crowd to form a conga line, towards the end of the show, brings audience members out of their shells and adds a much more appropriate participatory element. However, the performance would work much better as a musical accompaniment to an hour or two of dancing, though perhaps such an event might not be possible given the constraints of the venue.
In any case, there is something particularly joyous, reminding one of a gospel chapel, about watching heartfelt, passionate and expressive music from wooden pews.