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Orchestra BaobabReviewed by Alison Little
Wellington Town Hall
Orchestra Baobab are musical magpies. Their style typifies vintage "world/folk", combining the rhythms and riffs of a dozen cultures for a lively mix. While a cruisy Afro-Cuban sound predominates, there are geographic tints from every continent, Bollywood to bluegrass.
The Senegalese group formed in the 1970s, split apart, and then reformed a few years ago. This time around the nine-member orchestra includes bongos, steel drums, saxophones, guitars, and of course voices arranged in sweet male harmonies. Musically, the group are slickly professional, with performers taking turns in the spotlight, whether to sing, play a wild drum interlude or a Jimmy Hendrixesque guitar solo.
Their show is full of moments of sweet natured humour, the band members gently mocking each other. The interaction between them was lovely, with particularly nice little dance routines by the two saxophone players and one of the guitarists.
The performers worked hard for some audience involvement, although since most of the lyrics were in languages other than English, singing along was not really an option. Sometimes the words were a little drowned by the percussion section, but I'm almost certain one song repeated the refrain "A toe sucking sip of Moussaka" over and over. Perhaps it was just the acoustics of the gallery section.
The downstairs seating in the Old Town Hall had been cleared, so those so inclined could sway and dance. However, except for those near the front, most merely did that vague shoulder-shrug thing which passes in Wellington for 'almost dancing'. One audience member was so enticed by the performance he joined the band onstage. The groups' response was one of low key amusement, no burly security guards were called, the interloper enjoyed his stolen moments and then slipped back into the crowd.
Orchestra Baobab provided a pleasant night's entertainment, wholesome, relaxed and very mellow.