May 25, 2024

Suba Trio – Live in Leeds 2024 – “frantic three-way rhythm”

The Wardrobe, Leeds 10th May 2024

A fantastic evening, traversing two continents and squaring the circle of African musics. Combining the Senegalese Kora playing and singing of Seckou Keita – one African style, with the Cuban piano of Omar Sosa – featuring Cuban rhythms (a fusion of Africa and Latin) and Jazz – an intrinsically African music, with the Venezuelan percussion of Gustavo Ovalles – more of the African diaspora, this hits an amazing groove. The African beats are made to swing and groove beneath the melodies.

The band begin with Seckou Keita singing and playing, backed by the others but Omar’s piano comes in to tie in some inventive jazz and the rhythmic impulse is so strong that the audience, grinning and dancing, buzz so much afterwards that the Omar has to ask them to quiet down: “You can party or listen – we are here for you and you are here for us”. The music is beautiful and focussed, with an attentive audience paying it full respect as the trio weave around each other. Ironically, an hour later, Seckou and Omar build to such a dance intensity that both of them are on their feet, inviting clapping and singing. But the journey to that point is the story of the evening and that is the band’s to dictate.

The twin-headed kora is played like clear water, the voice equally as transparent and sweet, while the piano is confident and consistently jazzy. The percussion is complex and exactly there at all times. The second piece is very African, the third is very much Latin jazz and the fourth, a close fusion of the traditions. The syncopation is strong wherever the piano and percussion are leading the way and once the clave starts in, the movement is unstoppable. Once we are that point, Keita is urging the crowd to sing, clap and smile. It gets ultra percussive and Sosa is playing the strings of his grand piano directly with bundles of sticks, while Ovalles plays the maracas and the beat feels about to head into Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’. Dhol drums kick in and a salsa emerges.

The sound has been great, with the piano high and clear, the percussion crisp and the kora and voice perfect. The band was never going to be allowed to leave without a couple of encores and a soulful Senegalese ballad with atmospheric piano calms us before a frantic three-way rhythm makes dancing complex and impossible to avoid.

This has been another “through the noise” unusual evening, with classical quality of playing and composition, linked to a standing audience able to respond physically. Each of the Leeds evenings has been different and each inspiring.


Other through the noise events we’ve reviewed:

Sidiki Dembele – Live in Leeds 2024 – “the delicate to the gentle to the explosive”

James Newby & Joseph Middleton – Live in Leeds 2024 – “powerfully controlled singing”


About Author