Review by compère Richard Smith Snr aka DJ Fluid
Two sold out nights at the Seven Arts centre in Leeds saw us witness the musical journey of Kofi. The show opens with a drum chant and a calling to the Ancestors. The narrator tells us of Kofi's earliest beginnings and she and the band sing over the drum chant some songs from those beginnings, including Rastaman Chant, Wings of a Dove and Rivers of Babylon.
The narrator then tells us of how Kofi ignited her passion for music, eventually leading to her joining Caron Wheeler and Pauline Catlin to form the fledgling trio BROWN SUGAR before going on to her solo career. We move into the hits I'M IN LOVE WITH A DREADLOCKS, PLACE IN THE SUN and DIDN'T I before introducing Leeds Poet Khadijah Ibrahiim who takes us through the Lovers Rock era with a poem from her book ANOTHER CROSSING accompanied by vocals from Kofi and a great demonstration of 'rubbing' from an audience member (who came back for more on the 2nd night!) This was followed by a stripped down reworking of the classic empowerment anthem BLACK PRIDE which was also interpreted in dance by Phoenix Dance founder David Hamilton.
With that part of the journey covered Kofi then looked at the songs which illustrated her moments of young love. She brought to the stage rising star Rob Green one of the founding members of Leeds' Caution Collective to duet with her on a delicious version of Maria Muldaur's MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS featuring Chris Campbell and Johnnie Khan on guitars. This was followed by a lovely rendition of Major Harris' LOVE WON'T LET ME WAIT with Simon Howarth on keys and Atholl Ransome from Haggis Horns on Sax.
The 1st half of the show is closed out with a rousing foot-stomping version of Alexander O'Neal's LOVE MAKES NO SENSE bringing to the fore the percussive team of Errol Rollins on drums and the great Claudio Kron on percussion.
Although the show is called 'The Journey' it is not a strictly linear one so for the start of the 2nd half we take things back to those tunes that may have been heard around the Kofi household.
Rob Green returns to the stage, this time with fellow Caution Collective alum Marion Zubrzycki for a show-stopping version of the Sam Cooke classic A CHANGE IS GONNA COME which drew a standing ovation from the receptive audience.
Next we had a medley of songs which shone a spotlight on the backing vocalists Paulette Morris, Lara Rose and again Marion Zubrzycki.
This section was rounded out with an amazing rendition of the Otis Redding version of TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS lead by Kofi and featuring Vijay Venkat on flute and Bob Birch on Hammond Organ.
The journey having turned full circle it was now time to showcase the "new stuff" from the forthcoming album TAPESTRY.
ALWAYS BE THERE is a funky Bass-driven number very reminiscent of something Incognito might do and features the great Kenneth James Higgins III on Bass.
Next up we have ANGEL OF MINE a sweet song of Love and longing which features a delicate and emotive co-lead vocal from the Musical Director of the show (and the album) Christella Latras.
BYE BYE is a song that speaks of a letter detailing the break up of a couple and is amazingly depicted in dance again by David Hamilton.
DECLARATION is a song of emancipation of spirit and Womanhood and features in its chorus a beautiful African chant and some almost operatic melodies, the lead and backing vocals working together in glorious harmony. This song also features a dance interpretation from 12 year old Leilani Storm who had only one rehearsal before putting together her piece and made her African-inspired outfit herself.
The show closes with the anthemic MEADOW a song which fuses both Reggae and Soul elements and then builds to a crescendo with a chorus that will stick in your head once you have heard it. A likely first single I reckon.
Overall this show has shown that there is more to this artist than the limiting title of 'Lovers Rock singer' and that if you put together a quality package then the results can be breathtaking.
On both nights at the Seven Arts Centre the atmosphere and energy was electric and the audience left the venue well pleased. A show of this calibre should definitely be rolled out across the country, so if any promoters out there are reading this holla!
My thanks to everyone involved in the making of this event and for the honour of being the Host/Narrator.
Special thanks to MEWL music for putting this on, the Sponsors Black Music Festival and particularly the Event Manager Mim Si for her tireless efforts. To the Singers and Players of Instruments, the Speakers of Words and those that danced... Give Thanks
Kofi as you embark on this next part of your journey may the Ancestors grant you Love and favour.