Tabla Kwaiesa @ Cozmo's Cafe and Bar (4th Dec. '04)
Good music defies genres. Whether it be pop, rock, hip hop, country, techno, world music, etc if you make truly great music, lovers all of musical styles will appreciate it. It's probably safe to say that not every one in Shibuya at Cozmo's Cafe and Bar's increasingly popular Gypsy Queen's Baladi Night, is a fan of Arabic drumming. However, you'd be hard pressed to find a spectator that wasn't blown away by the performance of the monthly event's "house band" Tabla Kwaiesa.
After a bevy of beautiful belly dancers wowed the audience with their seductive shimmying, Tabla Kwaiesa emerged from the back of the club. Lead by Rentaro, the collective made their way to the dance floor amidst a flurry of Middle Eastern sounds. Standing in two lines, the group played as the audience clapped along with the showcased rhythms. Beginning at the back of the line, zill player Ueda and darabukka drummer Hide spun around while they others continued to perform. A few moments later the two spun again and were joined by Rentaro and riqq player Shinshi. As attendees roared their approval, all six spun once more with Daisuke and Ken at the front of the line. With big smiles, everyone but Daisuke fell to the ground as he launched into the first of several solos by the troupe.
Resembling more of a jazz sextet than a group of Middle Eastern influenced percussionists, the Japanese ensemble opted to dress in matching black suits as opposed to their traditional galabiyehs. Spurred on by their new wardrobes, the group turned in one of their best performances of this year. Reading each other perfectly, tonight's 40 minute set was extremely tight and focused, but still very loose and loads of fun. Each member fed off of the energy of their band mates and pushed the group to be better with their emotional playing.
Looking to get the crowd involved early on, Ueda strutted across the dance floor while breaking it down with a short free-style rap. He ended things by doing a bit of call and response with the people packed into Cozmo's yelling out "I say "Tabla' you say "Kwaiesa'", all the while showing off of his vast array of two-stepping skills. Along with the large amount of audience participation, one of the best things about a Tabla Kwaiesa concert is the addition of other musical styles. Although firmly based around Arabic percussion, the members' different influences often enter the mix. Along with hip hop, elements of rock and punk make there way into the band's show. The punk aspect isn't all that prevalent in the music it self, but comes more from the group's aesthetic. Being punk has always been about having a certain attitude. Doing something truly unique, in a world where musical acts seemingly strive to sound the same, is punk. Playing on club floors (and often in parks) around the city to eliminate the barriers between performer and audience members adds to this notion.
With so much positive energy radiating from the band it was impossible not to have a great time. Standing together in a circle, Ueda began clapping his hands with his zills and chanting "ichi, ni, san" to the beat of the drums. With the crowd cheering him on, Hide began to loudly strike the head of his drum. Playing a quick round of accented ka beats, his bandmates danced to his drumming before joining in. After Shinshi picked up his darabukka, all five drummers engaged in a sort of mock "drum off". Posing for one another, Shinshi, Ken, Hide, Daisuke, and Rentaro all simultaneously challenged each other in a hilarious bit that filled the room with their powerful, awesome percussion. All proficient players in their own right, when the five of them drum together it's hard not to be moved by their passion and joyful rhythms.
With all 6 members drenched in sweat, Daisuke and Hide played as a duo to give the others a much deserved break. Quickly switching back and forth, the two eventually began drumming together. Holding his drum upside down, Hide hit the top while muffling the sound by sticking his hand in the hollowed out bottom at the same time, creating a very interesting sound. A re-energized Ueda began dancing through the venue while playing his zills. Stopping to briefly chat to and zill for every female he passed, his charisma and musical skills were on full display as he headed behind the bar. Making his way back, he continued to wow attendees with his fancy footwork and finger cymbal abilities. Slumping over, he quickly twisted around and clinked his zills together once in the direction of the band who instantly began spinning around and kicking their feet up like can-can dancers. Not able to sit still any longer, the audience flooded the dance floor to bounce around with the six members. Surrounded by droves of dancing, happy people, the group's focus shifted from playing a concert, to celebrating the music they loved with friends new and old.
Being able to create this kind of response in people while playing entirely acoustic, instrumental music is a testament to how fantastic Tabla Kwaiesa truly are. Constantly coming up with new methods to better themselves as individual musicians and as a group, the opportunity to witness them live is something that should not be missed.
Catch Tabla Kwaiesa on the following dates:
December 12 Tokyo @ Takaido Club
December 26 Tokyo @ Ueno Space Cake
February 5 Tokyo @ Cozmo's Cafe and Bar
March 5 Tokyo @ Cozmo's Cafe and Bar
March 26 Tokyo @ Tokyo Museum (Dance Abode)
report by shawn
previous works by shawn
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