Dimi Mint Abba (singer/ardin), Veirouz Mint Seymali (backing vocals/percussion), Mohammed Ould Seymali & Ould Ahmed Fall (keyboards)
Reviewed by: Rob Witts
Reviewed: 4 August, 2006
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
An enthusiastic audience greeted this World Music double-bill, now a regular (if arguably token-gesture) fixture in the Proms schedules, which catches artists who had been at WOMAD in Reading the previous weekend. Cheika Rimitti had been due to share the bill, but her death in May meant that Dimi Mint Abba appeared in her place. Her role is something like that of a bard, combining music with social history and commentary: when she sang, there was an arresting authority to her voice. She accompanied herself on the ardin, a traditional harp, and was backed by a sonorous gourd drum and, incongruously, electronic keyboards. The subtle brocade of voice and ardin sat uneasily with the thumping pre-programmed rhythms; the most exciting instrumental was Veirouz Mint Seymali’s dance actions while drumming up a storm. But Dimi showed why she is a star in her native Mauritania, inflecting intricate melodies with an astonishing range of vocal colour.
Following her was Radio Tarifa, an Iberian group among the first to ignore the strictures of authenticity in favour of a more broad-minded approach to the traditional music of Spain, revisiting its roots in Arabic culture and playing on modern electric instruments. For this concert, one of the last – the group’s farewell performance in is September – the band was in ebullient mood, and revisited a number of its hits. The band includes some superb musicians; the introduction to “l mandil de Carolina” displayed the improvisatory skills of Amir Jon Haddad on lute and Vincent Molino on shawm over a bass drone, before the catchy flamenco rhythm kicked in. Jorge Gómez used a soft-edged sound to contrast with the oud, and deployed the distortion pedal on ‘Bulerías turcas’ to pleasing effect. Gravel-voiced singer Benjamín Escoriza was the consummate showman throughout, demonstrating a repertoire of paso doble moves and singing with passionate abandon. It was frustrating not to know what the songs were about – but that’s my fault for not speaking Spanish. While they are far from being the only Flamenco players to acknowledge the music’s Arabic origins – Juan Martín springs to mind, though in a more straight-ahead context – Radio Tarifa’s creativity and enjoyment are infectious, and the Arena of the Royal Albert Hall saw use as a dance floor by the end of the set.