Sons of Kemet returned to Birmingham for their gig at the legendary Hare & Hounds venue in Kings Heath, a relatively small performance space often frequented by burgeoning artists and DJs as well as more established acts.
The band have recently been on tour to promote their recent second album, ‘Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do’, a follow-up to their debut 2013 release ‘Burn’. Known to be somewhat improvisational, Kemet didn’t fail to disappoint with their alternative take on some of their recordings, which were still noticeable to the audience, but with enough of a slight twist to maintain listener interest.
Sons of Kemet’s musical footprint is varied but includes a mixture of influences from Ethiopian Jazz, Afro Beat, West Indian Folk and other styles and flavours. This does make perfect sense when heard, but the strong line up including the enigmatic and Birmingham raised Shabaka – the focus of the group, delivering some masterful saxophone playing, but conveyed in a looser context, so less virtuosic but more vibey. Theon Cross with his extremely dynamic tuba playing was engaging throughout, which helped drive the group along during their set. And finally, the two drummers, Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner are both in perfect sync, both technically and musically, and underpin the melodic sax and tuba parts, adding some complex rhythms and polyrhythms to the set and looked perfectly comfortable and relaxed during the evening.
Personal favourites of their set included the jerky ‘In the Castle of My Skin’, which has a brilliant video to accompany the track which should also be experienced, and ‘Play Mass’, a tight and funky Ethio-Jazz/Afrobeat groover, that fully captures the entire atmosphere and feel of Sons of Kemet.
And I was glad to see young Jazz musicians of this quality not regurgitating standard ideas that have been done a million types previously. For Jazz to develop and expand, it needs new blood to breath new life into the genre. We all love ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’, but I don’t want to hear 25 year olds performing them. The scene needs the likes Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven and Sons of Kemet to explore different musical ideas and concepts, and this was probably the reason why it was a mainly under 30s crowd who were fully absorbed throughout the show.
Sons of Kemet may not at first seem as accessible as other Jazz outfits, but their live performance is very engaging and fully recommended. And although I do enjoy their records, their live experience is much more exhilarating.
Hats off to the team at Hare & Hounds for their continued support for new music.