Posts Tagged ‘Bembeya’

Diamond Fingers

December 28, 2010

in full - and fast - flow

Certainly: not the best picture I could have taken but things were rather special on this otherwise so very ordinary Monday night. Round about midnight, a band strolls onto stage. Drums, bass, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar and…

…another man, wearing one of his trademark multi-coloured shirts. Diamond Fingers, they call him. He chats a bit with the sounds engineers, his back to the audience.

Then the announcer comes on stage. He is in the wrong job. He should be reciting the telephone directory here. He massively improves the party atmosphere by reminding us all, in his flat-as-a-drone diction, that only a few hundred metres from here a traffic accident killed  one of Africa’s best-loved singers, Alpha Demba Camara. He and Diamond Fingers were founder members of the legendary Bembeya Jazz, in 1961…

Thanks heavens for Sékou “Bembeya” “Diamond Fingers” Diabaté and his beloved guitar! He made us forget the funereal introduction in less that 5 seconds flat. ‘Aaaah – this is music…’ I hear someone sigh. He’s Guinean, like Sékou, like most of the audience tonight.

Oh yes, this is music.

For the next hour or so, Diamond Fingers regales us with some classics (Sou), weaves bits and pieces of other classics into his own songs at will (I think I heard some Armée Guinéenne, Ballaké, Dagna), his band following effortlessly. He walks off the stage with his guitar, notes cascading, falling over themselves as he serenades the front row. He turns the all-seater open air theatre into a heaving mass of dancing bodies, to the consternation of the security guards who are not used to such a carnival. He gets the singalongs going, cracks jokes, invites and old man onto the stage who jumps rope in time with his chords, sings a sentimental Guinean tune (very schmalzy that!) and gets the crowd moving again with a great Latinesque jive.

And then it was over.

‘I saw a man cry,’ says a young Senegalese rapper who I meet on the way out. Of course. That’s what you do when you are finally allowed a glimpse of heaven, if only for an hour. Very nice, too, to just forget about journalism for an while and be a simple, awestruck fan…

Bembeya Jazz plays on New Year’s Eve, I was told. By the time they finish that show, the group will be…50. Not just the best but also the oldest band in the world.