Since we’re not familiar with electronic artist Mark Ernestus, we’re not sure exactly why his name is attached to the African group, since he was nowhere to be seen during the Field of Heaven performance at noon on Saturday. It hardly mattered. Though the group has a guitarist and a keyboard player, per their name, this is all about rhythm in all its glorious complexity.
The sun was beating down, and quite a few of the people who gathered looked as if they had had long nights. But as the band came out, one by one, and kept adding to the deceptively simple pattern launched by the kit drummer, everything fell into place, and by the time the vocalist arrived to get everyone clapping and dancing, they already were.
Then a dancer with preternaturally supple limbs came out gyrating wildly and throwing candy to the audience. The interaction was complete, because this wasn’t just a bunch of musicians playing for a crowd. Everything and everybody was connected, and while we don’t think it was completely improvised it looked, sounded, and tasted like total spontaneity. The talking drum spoke volumes as one of the drummers and the dancer put on a contest that ended in a wrestling match. Drummers changed places with other drummers without dropping the beat. The singer chanted and laughed and kept the audience in the loop. It was already hot, and just kept getting hotter. (text: Philip Brasor; photos: Mark Thompson)